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Why Are Women Overdosing More Than Men?

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contained some troubling statistics. Overdose deaths among women aged 30-64 have rapidly increased. From 1999 to 2017, the number climbed a staggering 260 percent. And the drugs causing them have evolved as well, with more overdoses being attributed to antidepressants, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin, prescription opioids, and synthetic opioids than ever before.

We sat down with our Vice President of Clinical Development, Romas Buivydas, PhD, LMHC, to learn more about why this is happening, and how we can help. Here’s what we learned.

Biological Impacts

Substance abuse in women progresses more rapidly than it does in men. In fact, many begin experiencing dependency issues after using the drug just a few times. According to research, that difference can be attributed to estrogen and testosterone levels. These hormonal variables also make women more susceptible to strong cravings and relapse during recovery.

This means that while men are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders, women are more likely to overdose.

It’s also important to note that women suffer from anxiety, depression and chronic pain at higher rates than men, and are more likely to self-medicate as a result. This leads to regular use of benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax, Ativan and pain medications, as well as alcohol and other substances.

Societal Impacts

Women face very different circumstances in the world than their male counterparts – some of which contribute to the aforementioned mental health issues. They’re more likely to have experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault, financial inequality and intense scrutiny.

All of these aspects come back into play when it’s time to seek treatment. The potential barriers are daunting. Women do not feel as though they can leave their families. They may be overly concerned about the financial implications of taking time-off from work. They are afraid to leave behind bad relationships or face past trauma in therapy.

All too often, women don’t reach out for help until it’s too late.

Spectrum’s Impact

Raising awareness and increasing access to treatment is imperative to reducing fatal overdoses in women, which is why we work hard to implement innovative and accessible programs across our organization. Recently, our inpatient treatment center for commercially insured clients – the New England Recovery Center – announced that it now accepts all major insurance payers. All Spectrum Health Systems’ inpatient and outpatient centers, located throughout the state, continue to provide treatment to anybody who needs it.

At every point within Spectrum’s comprehensive continuum of services, women receive fully individualized care that addresses personal substance use issues, mental health disorders, triggers, family dynamics and after-care planning.

Looking to the future, educating the public on the dangers of overdoses and how and why they happen will be vital.

If you or a woman you love needs help, call Spectrum Health Systems today. We are available at (800) 366-7732.

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