Prescription Drug Abuse: Men vs. Women
Gender appears to play a role in prescription drug abuse. Predictors are different in men vs. women and being able to recognize these is important for doctors to know how to treat it. Researchers say that prescription drug abuse in women seems to be more closely related to psychological distress. In men, the risk of prescription drug abuse is more common for men who have social and behavioral problems.
Women are more likely to ask for and receive prescriptions for narcotic medications, and they have more access to prescribers. One possible reason is that women are more inclined to voice their concerns to a medical professional than men, and therefore are more likely to receive a prescription. While the initial complaint may be valid, prescription drugs can be incredibly habit forming. Many of the women who turn become addicted to prescription medication would never turn to illicit drugs or alcohol as a means of coping. However, because prescription drugs come from a medical professional, it is easier for them to use them, even misuse them, while still believing that they don’t have a problem.
In addition, women who misuse prescription medication are more likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse or have a history of psychiatric problems. Women who are being treated for pain not caused by cancer and who exhibit signs of stress, should be treated for mood disorders and counseled about the danger of relying on prescription drugs. Men should be closely monitored for behavioral problems, and their meds should be counted to check for adherence.
Men who engage in prescription drugs abuse tend to display worrisome behaviors like association with other people who abuse drugs and alcohol and engaging in criminal behavior. Women who engage in prescription drug abuse tend to display signs of emotional issues and affective distress. Women also tend to be more open and truthful about behaviors and to seek psychological help than men.
Overall, more men than women abuse prescription except the youngest (12-17 years old). Females in this age group exceed males in the nonmedical use of all drugs, including pain relievers, tranquilizers, and stimulants.
When women do engage in prescription drug abuse and become addicted, they are less likely than men to seek treatment. Some think that this is because the social stigma is more negative regarding woman than it is for men. Women are also more likely to convince themselves that they don’t have a problem with prescription drugs because the drugs were prescribed by a doctor. This can delay them asking for help. Likewise, treatment centers tend to be more male-oriented, because the men usually outnumber the women. This can become a factor in whether a woman stays in treatment or gets the treatment she needs for her addiction.
One think is for sure, prescription drug abuse is on the rise in both men and women in the US. Some pain centers are overwhelmed with patients who are known or suspected to be abusing their medications.