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Why Are More Women Getting Addicted to Painkillers


According to a recent ABC News report, more women are becoming trapped in the grip of painkiller addiction. At Chapters Capistrano, we believe it is essential to highlight this trend as a way to demonstrate that addiction can impact anyone—even those who are not intentionally engaging in substance abuse. With more women developing prescription medication dependencies, it is critical to not only pay attention to this upward trend, but also look at the reasons why to search for more effective solutions.

Painkiller addiction can be harder to detect—especially when these drugs are obtained legally through a doctor’s prescription. However, the article reports evidence to support the growth in women using painkillers. It states, “More women—suburban moms, wives, business women—are taking highly addictive pills that were prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate issue, and they find themselves going back for refill after refill… According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from prescription painkiller abuse among women have increased 400 percent in the past 15 years. For men, the number has jumped 265 percent.”

While it is important to note that painkiller abuse is impacting both men and women, here a few reasons why the significant increase among female patients has occurred:

  • Women Are Seeking Solutions for Legitimate Pain

According to the article, women are more likely to go to the doctor—and more regularly—than male patients. Busy women, whether those experiencing back pain from work or from motherhood, may seek out prescription drugs for relief. Other women may have experienced surgeries or conditions that draw out the possibility for prescription painkiller use.

Since dependency can develop gradually over time, many of these women may become addicted to painkillers without really noticing it until the problem worsens. Another report from Fox News calls this trend “accidental addiction.”

  • Problems with Sleep

There are many reasons why individuals may experience problems with sleep. For women, there is often a significant pressure to adhere to a schedule—especially when juggling work and home life. If a patient is experiencing problems with sleep—such as insomnia or sleep apnea—they may seek out a prescription medication to restore sleep.

Some women may be able to resolve sleep problems with sleep-related medications; however, these medications are also highly addictive. Those who do not find relief in prescription-strength medications, such as Ambien, may also use painkillers as a way to get rest and stay productive. However, this behavior will quickly turn into a cycle of abuse that will interrupt one’s way of life.

  • Stress

Reports have shown throughout the years that men and women experience stress differently. Due to hormonal differences, United Healthcare explains, “When stress looms for a woman, though, she is likely to seek and give emotional support.” With the pressure to resolve stress and maintain a home and work environment, many women may strive to self-medicate with the help of painkillers—that can temporarily relieve stress.

While a doctor is unlikely to prescribe a painkiller due to anxiety, women may exchange these medications with other women they know, especially if they are engaging in the type of “supportive” behavior described above. As a result, women can quickly find that painkillers provide a welcome relief to stress and continue to develop psychological and physical addiction to the drug.

Although the increase in painkiller abuse among women is often fueled by stress and external pressures, it is important to emphasize that there is no shame in reaching out for help when mental health or addiction struggles occur. If you or a loved one is ready to learn how to face life in sobriety through flexible addiction recovery options, Chapters Capistrano is a welcoming, private atmosphere. To learn more about our comprehensive treatment options and facility, call us today at 949-371-4198.