A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that the resident immune cells of women register pain at higher levels than those of men. This means that women have greater sensitivity to pain and get less relief from opioid pain medications than men do, on average.
This study could be an explanation for why chronic diseases like fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis are much more common for women than for men, and why women are less able to find relief for these chronic conditions.
Women At Higher Risk for Opioid Addiction
The findings of this study may also explain why women generally need nearly twice as much morphine as men to get a similar level of pain relief, which makes them more vulnerable to prescription opioid addiction.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine reports that women are prescribed painkillers more often and at higher doses than men. Women also use opiate drugs for longer periods of time than men and become dependent on them more quickly than men do.
Furthermore, women experiencing emotional or psychological stress are at risk for opioid abuse and addiction, but men do not appear to have as high a level of risk from these factors. Women who experience sexual abuse as a child or adult are also at higher risk for opioid abuse than men with the same experience, and women have a dual diagnosis of mental health and substance use disorders more often than men do.
The Heroin Connection
Many opioid drug addicts turn to heroin when their doctors will no longer prescribe opiates or they cannot get enough prescriptions to keep up with their increasing needs. 2016 reports from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that heroin use among women increased 100 percent between 2012 and 2013, while men’s use increased 50 percent.
Historically, men abuse opioids at much higher rates than women, but these trends are changing and women are catching up to men in opioid use, addiction, and eventually, overdose deaths.
Women are a driving factor in the current opioid crisis, with often tragic results. New treatments should consider the growing number of female addicts and use the study results to customize treatments that will be more effective at reducing women’s pain, so they do not need as many opioids to treat it. This, in turn, can reduce their risks of dependency and addiction.
Seeking Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
There are a number of medications that can help women overcome opioid addiction, and even medical marijuana has been shown to help reduce opioid use without the risk of overdose that opioids carry.
Women who realize they are addicted to prescription drugs can seek treatment at a Colorado rehab facility like Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Options for treatment include inpatient or outpatient rehab and can also include treatment for dual diagnosis, as needed. Treatment professionals can help Colorado women overcome their addictions and other issues to live healthier lives. Learn about admissions and explore all of our programs to see which one might be right for you.