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Women and Opioids: The Unseen Impact

Women and Opioids: The Unseen Impact

Created: 08/28/2019
Last Updated: 08/28/2019

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Launched by HealthyWomen and Healthline, Women and Opioids: The Unseen Impact is a national joint education campaign to promote visibility and awareness of opioid use disorder and its impact on women, their families and their communities.

This campaign features need-to-know information as well as real-life stories and solutions to help women, advocates and policy makers fight back against the epidemic that is killing thousands of Americans every year.

Why focus on women? For one, researchers do not yet realize the full extent that gender plays in opioid use disorder or treatment. For example, women "exposed to an addictive substance develop a drug use disorder more rapidly than men," according to a recent article by Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Women’s Health Research at Yale, and David A. Fiellin, MD, director of the Yale Program in Addiction Medicine. 

"Women seeking treatment for opioid addiction also suffer increased limitations in their social and work lives, reducing their ability to maintain employment and housing," the article states. "This compounds negative effects for children and families because women are most often the primary caregivers."

What is clear from the national dialogue about this crisis is that there is no one solution — or even a set of solutions. It will require collaboration and cooperation across many groups, including clinicians, patients, insurers, regulators, legislators, law enforcement, first responders and the media.

That is why HealthyWomen and HealthLine have joined to launch this campaign with a comprehensive toolkit of important resources, including:

HealthyWomen Experts

HealthyWomen Resources

HealthyWomen Partners

What You Need to Know

It's important to think of opioid use disorder (OUD) as a medical condition or disease rather than casting it as any type of personal or moral failing or weakness. Compare it to other diseases such as diabetes, depression or arthritis — all of which are biological conditions that can be treated medically, as can OUD.

Most people with opioid use disorder benefit from a combination of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and behavioral counseling. (Watch this video to learn even more about how MAT treatments can help reconnect women to their families and communities.)

If you think that you might be misusing opioids — or are concerned that a loved one might be — start by talking to a trusted health care professional, such as your primary care physician. "People don't think that this is a medical problem, but it is," says internal medicine physician Jean Kutner, MD, chief medical officer of University of Colorado Hospital. 

How to Talk to Your Health Care Professional About Opioid Abuse

If you and your health care professional decide that opioid medication is right for you, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of overuse, including:

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