The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that the number of newborn babies with an opioid addiction has tripled in 15 years.
In addition, a 2014 study revealed the number of women in the United States who have died from an opioid painkiller overdose has increased more than 500 percent from 1999-2008, surpassing the number of women’s lives motor vehicle accidents claimed during that same period.
Drug addiction typically depends on two things: a drug’s properties and the neural circuits on which that drug is operating. Sociological and environmental factors that contribute to drug abuse can be the same regardless of what kind of drug is taken, or whether it is taken by men or women – but on biological and behavioral levels, men and women can have different responses to a drug.
In 2010, Harvard Medical School looked at evidence from studies conducted over two decades and concluded that gender and sex may affect susceptibility, recovery, and risk of relapse. In other words, women develop dependence and experience medical and social consequences of addiction faster than men.
According to the Harvard Medical Health Letter, men and women are equally likely to use stimulants like cocaine and meth, but women have reported using cocaine earlier in life than men. Women are more likely to visit emergency rooms for opioid abuse than men, because they are more likely to be prescribed opioid painkillers.
Last March, the University of Nottingham reported that just in the U.K., intentional adolescent poisonings increased by 27 percent from 2007-2012, compared to 1992-1996, and remain associated with health inequalities and sex. The largest increases in intentional poisonings were found among females (aged 16 to 17) and the largest increases in alcohol-related poisonings were also reported among females (aged 15 to 16).
University of Minnesota researchers Justin Anker and Marilyn Carroll led a series of preclinical studies in 2010, which concluded through data, collected by animal and human subjects, that females are more vulnerable to drug abuse than males. According to their research, data suggest that females, compared to males, are more vulnerable to key phases of the addiction process that mark transitions in drug use including initiation, drug bingeing, and relapsing.
“The key is not to throw in the towel and give up because we may be vulnerable to such maladies,” said Shan White, recovery coach at Women’s Peak Performance Coaching. “Instead, as women, we can learn to develop a heightened sense of awareness and purposely find constructive, healthy and more sustainable ways in which to cope with the gender-related challenges we face.”
Are hormones to blame?
Anker and Carroll pointed out that females are also more prone to drug bingeing, primarily because of estrogen, which, their research suggested… (continue reading)