CT Clearinghouse

Opioids and Women

National data consistently show that gender is an important fact to consider when examining patterns of substance abuse, such as overall prevalence rates and substances of choice. For example, males are more likely than females to report marijuana and alcohol use, whereas females are more likely than males to report non-medical use of prescription drugs.

Research & Statistics

  • An Analysis of the Impact of Opioid Overprescribing in America

    This report is the culmination of research to identify and
    better understand the populations most at risk from exposure
    to prescription opioids as federal and state agencies increase
    their attention and resources to combatting the opioid
    crisis. This research provides a greater understanding of
    those vulnerable populations and will help to better educate
    patients and prescribers about opioid risks.

  • Comparative Profiles of Men and Women with Opioid Dependence: Results from a National Multisite Effectiveness Trial

    Accumulating evidence indicates important gender differences in substance use disorders. Little is known, however, about gender differences and opioid use disorders.

  • Drug Overdose Deaths Among Women Aged 30–64 Years — United States, 1999–2017

    The drug epidemic in the United States continues to evolve. The drug overdose death rate has rapidly increased among women, although within this demographic group, the increase in overdose death risk is not uniform. From 1999 to 2010, the largest percentage changes in the rates of overall drug overdose deaths were among women in the age groups 45–54 years and 55–64 years; however, this finding does not take into account trends in specific drugs or consider changes in age group distributions in drug-specific overdose death rates.

  • Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction

    Medications, including buprenorphine (Suboxone®, Subutex®), methadone, and extended release naltrexone (Vivitrol®), are effective for the treatment of opioid use disorders.

  • Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon Generals Spotlight on Opioids

    The Spotlight on Opioids assembles opioid-related information from the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health into one document to better inform the general public, especially family and friends of people with an elevated risk of opioid overdose, opioid misuse, and/or opioid use disorder.

  • Facts About Women and Trauma

    Research indicates that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD, experience a longer duration of posttraumatic symptoms and display more sensitivity to stimuli that remind them of the trauma.

  • Fatal and Nonfatal Overdose Among Pregnant and Postpartum Women in Massachusetts

    Opioid-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled over the past fifteen years, representing a public health emergency. The rates of heroin use and prescription opioid-related overdose deaths are rising faster in women than in men, particularly women of reproductive age. Multiple states have identified opioid-related overdoses as a major contributor to pregnancy-associated deaths. Among all pregnancy associated deaths, 11–20% were due to opioid-overdose.

  • Final Report: Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdose in Women

    This report was developed as part of an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) to examine prevention, treatment, and recovery issues for
    women who misuse opioids, have opioid use disorders (OUDs), and/or overdose on opioids.

  • Opioid Use Disorder Documented at Delivery Hospitalization

    Hospital discharge data from the 1999–2014 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) were analyzed to describe U.S. national and state-specific trends in opioid use disorder documented at delivery hospitalization.

  • Opioids and Women: From Prescription to Addiction

    Women are more likely than men to experience chronic pain and use prescription opioid pain medications for longer periods and in higher doses. Women make up 65 percent of total opioid prescriptions and 40 percent more women than men become persistent opioid users following surgery

  • Overdose Risk in Young Children of Women Prescribed Opioids

     Over the past 20 years, the prescribing of opioids has increased dramatically in North America, with parallel increases in opioid addiction, overdose, and associated deaths. We examined whether young children of women prescribed opioids were at increased risk of opioid overdose.

  • Prescription Painkiller Overdoses

    About 18 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the US, more than 6,600 deaths in 2010. Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for women.

  • Sex and Gender Issues in Substance Use

    Scientists who study substance use have discovered special issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause that can impact women’s struggles with drug use. 

  • The Ripple Effect: The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Children and Families

    Despite a significant volume of news and research on the tragic toll of opioids, one aspect has gone relatively unnoticed: the impact on children and families.

    A United Hospital Fund project is working to change that by shining a light on the epidemic’s long-lasting and destructive “ripple effects” on children and adolescents whose parents are addicted and on kinship caregivers who often end up caring for these young people.

  • Women and Addiction: A Trauma Informed Approach

    Over the past thirty years, our knowledge of women’s
    lives has increased dramatically, and we have added significantly
    to our understanding of the treatment needs of women
    who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

Self-Help Groups

The opioid epidemic's disproportionate impact on women is the latest, and most destructive, symptom of wider gender-based disparities that leave millions of American women in worse health than men.

Data show that deaths among women from opioid overdose have increased at a much faster rate than for men, 400% compared with 265%. And states where doctors write the most opioid prescriptions per 100 residents are also the states with the widest overall disparities between men's and women's health.