As America continues to combat its opioid epidemic, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses among women has soared in recent years, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
From 1999 to 2017, the drug overdose death rate among women 30 to 64 years old climbed more than 260%, according to the report published Thursday.
In that time, drug overdose deaths involving antidepressants, cocaine, heroin, prescription opioids, synthetic opioids and benzodiazepines such as such as Xanax and Valium all increased, the report said.
“Overdose deaths continue to be unacceptably high, and targeted efforts are needed to reduce the number of deaths in this evolving epidemic among middle-aged women,” the researchers wrote.
The report involved nationwide mortality data on people living in the United States between 1999 and 2017. The data came from the National Vital Statistics System, which is based on information from death certificates.
The researchers took a close look at overdose death rates among women ages 30 to 64 overall and then by drug type: antidepressants, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin, prescription opioids and synthetic opioids, excluding methadone.
Among women in that age group, the drug overdose death rate increased from 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people, or 4,314 deaths total, in 1999 to 24.3 per 100,000, or 18,110 deaths total, in 2017.
The rise in deaths also varied by age and drug categories in the data.
From 1999 to 2017, drug overdose death rates increased about 200% among women ages 35 to 39 and 45 to 49; 350% among those 30 to 34 and 50 to 54; and nearly 500% among those 55 to 64, the researchers found.
The drug overdose death rates also increased for all drug categories, with notable surges in rates of deaths involving synthetic opioids, at 1,643%; heroin, at 915%; and benzodiazepines, at 830%, the researchers found. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving any opioid increased 492%.
The report had some limitations, including that some deaths could have involved more than one substance. Also, changes over time in testing or reporting of certain drugs could have influenced the data.