Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Prescription drug abuse takes greatest toll on women, white, working class--rural

The Centers for Disease Control released a report yesterday indicating that "more women now die of overdoses from pain pills like OxyContin than from cervical cancer or homicide" and that women's deaths from such pain killers has quintupled since 1999.  While more men than women are still dying from these drug overdoses, women are "catching up," and the problem is hitting white women more than black women, older women harder than younger ones.  And there's another demographic headline here:  the impact is greater in rural areas than in urban ones.  

Sabrina Tavernise reported on the CDC analysis in the New York Times today, dateline Portsmouth, Ohio, population 20,226, on the "edge of Appalachia."  Here's a quote that suggests the rural angle:
For years, drug overdose deaths in the United States were seen as mostly an urban problem that hit blacks hardest. But opioid abuse, which exploded in the 1990s and 2000s and included drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, has been worst among whites, often in rural places. 
The CDC found that the overdose death rate for blacks in 2010 was less than half that for whites, with the lowest rates associated with Asians and Hispanics.  

And here's a paragraph from Tavernise's story on the gendered angle:
In this Ohio River town on the edge of Appalachia, women blamed the changing nature of American society. The rise of the single-parent household has thrust immense responsibility on women, who are not only mothers, but also, in many cases, primary breadwinners. Some who described feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities said they craved the numbness that drugs bring. Others said highs made them feel pretty, strong and productive, a welcome respite from the chaos of their lives.
In 2010, the number of women who died from overdoses of opiods was 6,631, while 10,020 men succumbed to this class of drugs.

NPR also reported on the CDC study.  

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