Opioid treatment outcomes are worse for women: Study

Opioid treatment outcomes are worse for women: Study

Women are not getting the kind of opioid addiction treatment they should be getting.

That’s not because women aren’t loved or appreciated. It’s because almost all the research into opioid addiction and addiction treatment has been focused on men.

Now, a team of researchers writing in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet point out an essential fact about half the people on the planet:

Women are different!

That means physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

Women are so different from men regarding opioids and addiction, in so many specific and important ways, that current prevention, addiction and treatment modalities are simply not as effective as they should be.

Research ignores differences

Carolyn M. Mazure, PhD, director of Women’s Health Research at the Yale School of medicine, and David A. Fiellin, MD, director of the Yale Program in Addiction Medicine, point out that national initiatives are needed to address the underlying causes of the opioid epidemic.

“However, current planning overlooks gender differences in opioid use that have meaningful implications for preventing misuse and treating pain and opioid use disorder (OUD),” they said.

Here are some brief examples of gender differences, from solid research:

  • Women are significantly more sensitive to pain
  • Women are more likely than men to start opioid use through prescription opioid painkillers
  • From 1993 to 2014, more women than men (54% vs 46%) received opioid prescriptions
  • More women than men receive co-prescriptions of benzodiazepines with their opioid painkillers, raising the chances for overdose
  • More women than men are prescribed opioids for conditions such as headache that don’t have data showing treatment benefit
  • More women than men die while receiving treatment
  • From 1999 to 2016, deaths from overdose increased by 404% in men and 583% in women
  • Although there are more prescription opioid-related deaths among men than among women in the USA, the rate of increase in deaths is higher in women than men
  • Women receiving treatment for prescription opioid abuse have greater functional impairment than men
  • Women receiving OUD treatment suffer more problems than men maintaining employment, housing, relationships, and personal care
  • Women receiving OUD treatment are less likely than men to have been involved in the criminal justice system, but they’re more likely to be unemployed, worried about intimate partner violence, and child care
  • Since most family caregivers are women, OUD in women affects the wellbeing of children and families more than men
  • Women with OUD have higher prevalence than men of co-morbid mood and anxiety disorders.

Stigma and barriers to treatment

Interventions by health professionals historically developed around the treatment of men, the authors said, so services “often focus preferentially on the concerns of men.” Also, women suffer greater stigma when identified with a substance use disorder. Consequently, women are less likely than men to enter traditional treatment.

“Women-only programs seem to reduce barriers to treatment entry, and women-centered services that encompass child care and domestic counseling show improved engagement and can result in better outcomes for women,” the authors said.
A failure to focus on women in the opioid epidemic can result in serious misjudgments—a 2016 study showed that among opioid overdose decedents women were three times less likely than men to receive naloxone through emergency medical services. The influence of gender differences in pain, opioid use, and OUD must be part of the response to the opioid crisis.

The authors also say that, when providing care for opioid use disorder, health care providers should keep these differences in mind.

“Halting the momentum and effectively managing the opioid epidemic requires research, clinical, and policy commitments to understand the influence of gender.”

Here at Novus, we care for each patient – male and female – on an individual basis. There’s no “one size fits all.” If you or someone you care about is having a problem with substance use, don’t hesitate to call us at (855) 464-8550.

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