Addiction to painkiller drugs is now the number one most concerning substance abuse issue in the nation.  Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had this to say on the matter:

“Never before has a drug or alcohol addiction issue gotten so serious and so concerning as to advance from a, ‘crisis’, to an, ‘epidemic’.  But as of the year 2010, opiate prescription pain reliever abuse and addiction is now a legitimate epidemic in the United States of America.”

The truth of the matter is quite worrisome actually.  Despite pretty impressive advances in medicine, mortality rates for middle-aged white men and women have increased over the past decade by quite a surprising rate, while death rates have fallen for nearly every other racial and ethnic group that lives in the United States. Experts are actually still trying to figure out why this is happening and really get to the bottom of it, but it is commonly agreed upon that drug abuse and depression appear to be common themes and major contributors in this issue.

Let’s take a closer look at this:

• The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) declared that, in complete truth and with no exaggeration, opiate overdoses in middle-aged white women went up by a shocking 400 percent between the years of 1999 and 2014.

• White women are not only a lot more likely to be prescribed opioid painkillers than women of other races are, but they’re also more likely to take a combination of opioids and anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan) than other women and men are.

• White women are five times more likely than white men to be prescribed this combination, and then are eight times as likely to be prescribed this combination as women of other ethnic backgrounds are.

The Science Behind It

There is a lot of danger and a lot of concern, and rightly so, with prescription drug abuse amongst women.  Both opioids and benzos can depress and even all but shut down the central nervous system quite a bit, slowing the heart rate and breathing.  When someone goes so far as to combine opiates and benzos then the cocktail can be a fatal one.  In this case people might go to sleep and never wake up and die in their sleep from a silent, fatal overdose. Adding alcohol to the mix is even riskier too, and it increases a chance of overdose by about eighty percent.

Where does menopause fit in to all of this and how does it affect things? A major 2002 study found that women treated with estrogen and progesterone had higher risks of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer.  So it isn’t really menopause by itself, it’s what women do to try to make menopause easier to deal with that does it.  If a woman gets treatments to make menopause go along more easily and takes or abuses prescription drugs, she is at very high risk from a physical and a mental health standpoint.  One professional had this to say on the matter:

“When women go through menopause, there are big changes with pain, anxiety and depression. There is a hard body of research on this.  Opioids, taken in the long term, reduce the level of hormones in the body. This can lead to a greater sensitivity to pain. And it can feed into this dose-escalation cycle.”

The Key Statistics

Below is listed two major statistics that really show in detail how addiction, typically speaking, is a bigger problem for men than it is for women, except when it comes to prescription drug abuse in general.  In that arena, women suffer far worse than men do:

• In the year of 2013, as in prior years, the rate of current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older was higher for males, (11.5 percent), than for females, (7.3 percent). Males were more likely in fact than females to be current users of several different illicit drugs, including marijuana, (9.7 vs. 5.6 percent), cocaine (0.8 vs. 0.4 percent), and hallucinogens (0.7 vs. 0.3 percent).  Statistically speaking, men have always abused substances at higher rates than females have, and now more so than ever this seems to be an issue.  In fact, there are more instances of women overdosing on prescription drugs than men. Between 2002 and 2013, overdose deaths from prescription pills increased by five-hundred percent for women and only about two-hundred percent for men.

• In the year of 2013, the rate of current illicit drug use was higher for males than females aged 12 to 17, (9.6 vs. 8.0 percent). This represents a change from the year of 2012, when the rates of current illicit drug use were similar among males and females of the ages of 12 to 17, (9.6 and 9.5 percent respectively), and reflects a decrease in the rate of current illicit drug use among females from 2012 to 2013. Likewise, in the year of 2013, the rate of current marijuana use was higher for males than it was for females aged 12 to 17, (7.9 vs. 6.2 percent), which is a change from 2012 when the rates of current marijuana use for males and females were similar, (7.5 and 7.0 percent).  Generally speaking, men just have a lot more trouble with this than women do, except with prescription drugs, which are killing two and a half times as many women as men.

For these reasons and for so much more, it is now being recommended when at all possible to just let menopause occur naturally, and if necessary to explore more holistic methods of easing the process.  There are ways to live a happy, healthy, stress free life as a woman without taking drugs or engaging in various medical procedures, and these avenues should be pursued.

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