Prescription bottle

In 2015, 33,091 Americans died as a result of opioid overdoses; a 15.6 percent increase from the previous year.

This opioid crisis is having an impact on communities across the country, as deaths have increased across all races and almost all ages. However, the epidemic is having a particularly significant impact on women’s health.

The picture of opioid use and misuse is different for women compared with men. Research suggests that biological differences between women and men seem to influence susceptibility to substance abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women are more likely to experience chronic pain and use prescription opioid pain medications for longer periods and in higher doses than men. When used properly, prescription opioids can provide significant benefits to patients suffering from short-term surgical pain or chronic pain as a result of serious injuries or illnesses, such as cancer. Unfortunately, the same properties that enable opioids to manage pain can also lead to dependence, misuse, overdose and death.

Studies suggest that women who use opioids not only progress to dependence more quickly than men, but they also experience more cravings than men. Psychological and emotional distress has also been identified as a risk factor for hazardous prescription opioid use among women but not among men. As awareness of the dangers of prescription drug misuse has spread, doctors and other medical professionals are writing fewer prescriptions for opioids.

Recognizing the impact that the opioid epidemic is having on women, the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) partnered with public health and medical experts, policymakers, community groups and women with experiences to discuss what works and what we can do better. OWH is working to raise awareness about the crisis and promoting positive solutions to save lives.

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

HHS Awards 16 Grants to Prevent Opioid Misuse among Women and Girls

The factors that led to the crisis of opioid use in women are complex, which is why we must work together across multiple fronts if we are to turn the tide on this epidemic. For more information about what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is doing to access resources on prevention, treatment and recovery, visit

Source: How OWH Is Fighting the Opioid Epidemic, August 15, 2017

The Great Plains QIN partners with providers, pharmacists and stakeholders in the region to reduce and monitor Adverse Drug Events (ADEs). A specific strategy to advance this work is to monitor Medicare consumer ADE rates on several prescription medications; one being opioids. Learn how you can partner with our team to reduce ADEs by visiting our website.