The fact that women suffer from depression at a rate twice that of men has been well documented (www.mayoclinic.com). Yet a recent study suggests that middle-aged women might be at a particularly high risk of depression leading to suicide. According to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there has been a 49 percent increase in emergency room visits for drug overdoses among women over the age of 50. And women between the ages of 40-69 are attempting to take their own lives at a staggering rate.
Between 2005 – 2009, ER visits for attempted overdoses by women taking prescriptions for anxiety or insomnia rose 56%, and ER visits for women taking prescription pain relievers rose 30% during that same time period. Even more concerning is the 67% rise for women taking hydrocodone, and a startling 210% increase for women taking oxycodone. According to SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., “The steep rise in the abuse of narcotic pain relievers by women is extremely dangerous and we are now seeing the results of this public health crisis in our emergency rooms. Emergency rooms should not be the frontline in our efforts to intervene. Friends, family, and all members of the community must do everything possible to help identify women who may be in crisis and do everything possible to reach out and get them needed help” (SAMHSA News Release).
Why are so many women experiencing depression? There are myriad reasons, some of which may be linked to biology and genetics. But for middle aged women, the major causes seem to be stress related, and include being overwhelmed by childcare and work, being involved in unhealthy relationships, having to care for aging parents, and experiencing hardship as a result of divorce (NIMH). The good news is that there is quality counseling available in most communities, including Boulder. Options include Boulder Therapy for Women, and the Women’s Mental Health and Wellness Clinic. There are also numerous local agencies available to help women fight addiction, including Boulder County Public Health’s Addiction Recovery Centers, as well as suicide hotlines available 24 hours a day.
I recently lost a sister to prescription drug addiction. She was 52. If you see someone suffering, say something. Do something. You can also support efforts to combat prescription drug abuse at the state and federal level by asking your representatives to pass legislation to crack down on pill mills, and by pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to expand efforts to properly educate providers regarding the dispensing of addictive medications. This is not only an individual problem. It is a societal problem that negatively impacts all of us.