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Pain Killers

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Overdose and death from prescription pain killers is a growing problem, especially in women. More men die from them; but the fivefold increase in womens’ deaths during the last decade is concerning: eighteen women die each day from overdosing on prescription painkillers -- more than 6600 deaths in 2010, quadruple those from cocaine and heroin. For every woman who dies, 30 more go to the ER for painkiller misuse or abuse.

We’re talking about opioid narcotics: hydrocodone, brand name Vicodin; oxycodone, brand name OxyContin, oxymorphone, brand name Opana; and Methadone.

There are particularly deadly combinations: taking pain killers along with antidepressants; with anti anxiety meds like Xanax and Valium; or with sleeping pills.

The women most affected: those 25 to 54, Non-Hispanic whites, American Indians, and Alaska native women.

Women are more likely to have chronic pain, to become drug-dependent more quickly, and more likely to use drugs longer and in higher doses. Women are also more likely to doctor shop to get more meds.

Pain meds are an important part in pain management. But be careful---you can become dependent on them. Don’t take them if you don’t really need them.