The Gender Disparity of the Opioid Crisis

chronic pain pills womenA recent opinion piece in the Star Tribune shined a light on the problem different genders face in the opioid crisis, particularly the challenges faced by women.

One of the main talking points is that deaths from opioid overdoses have increased much faster for women than for men. Female deaths from opioid overdoses have increased 400 percent in recent years compared to 265 percent for men. Both of these numbers are very problematic, but it helps to show that the opioid crisis is affecting each gender differently.

When opioids affect women, it can oftentimes have a bigger trickle down affect than when it affects men. As the article states, in most American families the woman is the primary caregiver, and the woman’s well-being is often closely tied to the health and future of the children. Opioid abuse by the primary caregiver can often lead to problems down the road for the children, and it increases their likelihood of having their own battles with substance abuse. When opioids negatively affect women, it rarely impacts just one person.

Fixing The Problem

The article went on to suggest some ways to reduce opioid disparity and the larger problem of gender-based health disparities in the United States. Some of the proposed solutions include:

  • Addiction risk education for doctors and patients
  • More education has led to fewer opioid prescriptions and in some places, a downturn in overdose deaths
  • Better emergency room treatment
  • Education campaigns to change dosage standards for women
  • Increased doctor education in states where women disproportionately suffer from conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain and heart problems
  • Stop cutting insurance coverage for certain programs like Medicaid and Medicare

It’s clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for fixing the opioid crisis and gender-based healthcare disparities throughout the country, but the first step is to help spread awareness that a problem exists. Then we need to put a plan of action in place and stop making the bottom line a higher priority than the health of the patient in our office.

Opioids certainly have a place to help patients when properly assigned and administered, but far too often they are being blindly prescribed and without safety measures in place if abuse begins. The Star Tribune article is a step in the right direction by calling attention to the problem, but now we need doctors, patients and our legislatures to follow through. For the sake of women and families across the country, I hope we can work towards a solution.

Men and Women Similar When It Comes To Chronic Pain

Men and WomenAlthough there have been previous studies that suggest women have a higher pain tolerance than men, a new study out of the University of Malaga suggests that a person’s resiliency, not their sex, determines how well they handle chronic pain.

For their study, researchers analyzed numerous traits among 400 patients suffering from chronic spine pain (210 women and 190 men). What they found was that personal qualities, not genetic differences, was the best indicator of how a person dealt with chronic pain.

In essence, certain men and women have a very difficult time managing chronic symptoms, while others are able to work through the discomfort. The people who don’t let the pain bog them down are the same people you’d want on your basketball team when you’re down 10 points in the fourth quarter or if you need a big last week to meet your quarterly sales goals, because the research suggests that how a person handles adverse circumstances is the primary quality linked to an individual’s pain tolerance and how they adjust to chronic pain.

According to the researchers, the findings suggest more similarities than differences between men and women.

“More resilient individuals tend to accept their pain, that is, they tend to understand that their ailment is chronic and they stop focusing on trying to get the pain to disappear, to focus their energy on enhancing their quality of life, despite the pain, said Carmen Ramirez-Maestra, the study’s lead author. “In this regard, patients who are able to accept their pain feel less pain, they are more active on a daily basis and have a better mood.”

So remember, treating chronic pain is only half the battle. Dealing with, accepting, and not letting pain wear you down are other pieces to the pain puzzle.

Related source: Daily Digest News