Because of wider gender-based disparities in medical care, the opioid epidemic is having a disproportionate impact on women. That’s according to Ken Sagynbekov, a health economist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Milken Institute in Santa Monica, California. Data shows opioid overdose deaths among women have increased at a much faster rate than for men, 400 percent compared with 265 percent.
The huge, and grossly over-the-top impact of opioids on women reveals the problem of poorer health and poorer access to care. Women are more vulnerable to addiction and, once addicted, more likely to die as a result. In addition to overdose death statistics, women’s lives and their families are being torn asunder. Grandparents are having to take over child rearing responsibilities.
As a result of the extreme spike in opioid addiction, evidence from neonatal hospital units across the country, shows infants born with opioid addiction symptoms increased five-fold from 2000 to 2012. This trend, along with predictions for ever increasing opioid-related deaths will all but guarantee greater and out-of-control increases in medical expenses for women and their families.
Education campaigns have begun to change dosage standards for women. Gender-neutral dosages have previously been too high for most women because of their lower body weight and because they typically are prescribed opioids for longer periods of time than men. Doctors are writing fewer opioid prescriptions today because of government mandates.
Solutions such as raising awareness among doctors in high-disparity states is important. Women in these locals disproportionately suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems as well as addiction. Also of importance is women in all states experience a higher rate of mental health issues than men. Greater access to education and knowledge about healthcare trends for women should initiate and increase effective treatment strategies along with the efficiency of state and local healthcare systems.
According to Ken Sagynbekov, the best remedy for women is also the most difficult to achieve. That is, to improve the overall quality of healthcare in states where the disparities are greatest. Success, he says, will demand courage to buck a political trend favoring cuts in healthcare insurance coverage, in programs like Medicaid and Medicare, and in supplemental nutrition for low-income individuals and families.
“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” — Michelle Obama
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