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Drug overdose deaths spike among middle-aged women

Friday - 7/5/2013, 9:20am  ET

MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer

ATLANTA (AP) -- Overdose deaths in the U.S. are rising fastest among middle-aged women, and their drug of choice is usually prescription painkillers, the government reported Tuesday.

"Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying at rates that we have never seen before," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiled the data.

The problem is one of the few health issues the CDC is working on that are clearly getting worse, he added.

For many decades, the overwhelming majority of U.S. overdose deaths were men killed by heroin or cocaine. But by 2010, 40 percent were women -- most of them middle-aged women who took prescription painkillers.

Skyrocketing female overdose death rates are closely tied to a boom in the overall use of prescribed painkillers. The new report is the CDC's first to spotlight how the death trend has been more dramatic among women.

The CDC found that the number and rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths among females increased about fivefold 1999 to 2010. Among men, such deaths rose about 3
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