The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning doctors to be careful when prescribing prescription painkillers to their patients. New statistics from the CDC show the number of women who died from prescription painkiller overdoses rose 400 percent between 1999 and 2010. The report says during that time nearly 48,000 women died overdosing on painkillers including vicodin and oxycontin.
"They shouldn't be used lightly," said Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC. "Where they are essential, necessary,
something like severe cancer pain, they are important tools. But all too often, the risks are way higher than the benefits."
The report finds prescription painkiller overdoses are also on the rise for men, but not as sharply as for women. Previous research has shown that women are more likely to have chronic pain, more likely to be prescribed painkillers and more likely to be given higher doses. Studies have also shown that women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men.
In 2010, more than 200,000 women visited emergency rooms for opioid misuse or abuse. That's about one woman every three minutes.
Health experts say there are steps women can take to stay safe from prescription painkiller overdoses.
"Use it only as indicated on the bottle and when you finish taking the prescription pain medications, get rid of the prescription pain medications. Do not save them for another time," said Dr. Tod Bania of Roosevelt Hospital.
And always discuss all medications you take with your doctor.
The CDC says 6,600 women died from prescription drug overdoses in 2010. That's four times as many who died from cocaine and heroin combined.
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