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Women Experience Pain and Addiction Differently

August 26, 2019

WHRY Director Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D., spoke with NPR's Patti Neighmond for a segment on "Morning Edition" about the differences between how women and men experience pain and addiction. These differences can have serious consequences for the health of women, particularly in relation to the ongoing opioid crisis.

For example:

  • Women have a greater sensitivity to pain than men and are more likely than men to begin their misuse of opioids through medical treatment. Women are more likely to be prescribed opioids with other medications that increase the likelihood of an overdose. Between 1999 and 2016, overdose deaths from opioid prescriptions increased by 583% for women — a rate 179% higher than for men.
  • A 2016 study found that emergency medical services were three times less likely to administer the life-saving drug naloxone to women experiencing an opioid overdose that ultimately killed them.
  • Pregnant women and their newborns are at special risk for health complications, as 28% of pregnant women entering addiction treatment reported misusing prescription opioids in 2012, up from 2% two decades earlier.
  • In addition, women exposed to an addictive substance develop a drug use disorder more rapidly than men. Women seeking treatment for opioid addiction also suffer increased limitations in their social or work lives, causing negative effects on their ability to maintain employment and housing. This compounds negative effects for children and families because women are most often the primary caregivers.
  • And because many substance use interventions have been developed around treating men, women are less likely to enter traditional treatment programs. Women-only programs show better involvement and often better results.

You can listen to the radio story here.

Submitted by Rick Harrison on August 26, 2019