New research reveals that while American men die from drug overdoses at a higher rate than women, this difference cannot entirely be attributed to misuse or increased use. Men were two to three times more likely than women to pass away from a drug overdoses between 2020 and 2021, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
That included overdoses from stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine as well as opioids like fentanyl and heroin.The study’s authors noted that although men consume drugs at higher rates than women, this does not fully account for the disparity.
“Despite the fact that both men and women are exposed to the current, fentanyl-contaminated drug supply, something is making men substantially more likely to pass away than women. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIDA and research co-author, “It may be that males use drugs more frequently or in higher quantities, which might increase their risk of mortality, or there may be protective features among women that lessen their risk of death compared to men.
In an NIDA news release, Volkow stated, “It is essential to develop specialised tools to protect people from fatal overdose and other harms of drug use. Understanding the biological, behavioural, and social factors that impact drug overdoses on our bodies’ responses.”
The Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (CDC WONDER) platform of the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was used by the researchers to analyse data on overdose deaths in adults ages 15 to 74. Additionally, they estimated and controlled for rates of drug abuse in males relative to women using information from the yearly National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
The researchers discovered that the total rates of drug overdoses deaths from synthetic opioids were 29 deaths per 100,000 persons for men, compared to little over 11 for women, after adjusting for a sex-specific rate of drug abuse. Men died from heroin at a rate of 5.5 per 100,000 and women at a rate of 2 per 100,000. For stimulants, they discovered that there are roughly 13 deaths per 100,000 men as opposed to 5.6 for women. Particularly for cocaine, there were 10.6 deaths per 100,000 men and 4.2 deaths per 100,000 women.
The results revealed that men had a greater overdose fatality rate across the life span and in all states. With rare exceptions, the researchers discovered that men had higher rates of death than women in each group for overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids as well as for the other drug categories when they analysed the data by 10-year age groupings.
The findings, according to the study’s authors, are probably the result of a mix of possible increased biological susceptibility to drug toxicity, using the drugs more recklessly, and additional societal and gender-related factors. In total, approximately 107,000 persons overdosed on drugs in the United States in 2021, mostly as a result of fentanyl.
Eduardo Butelman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the study’s primary author, said that the findings “emphasise the importance of looking at the differences between men and women in a multilayered way.” Going forward, it will be crucial for researchers to keep looking at how biology, societal factors, and behaviours combine with sex and gender factors to affect drug addiction and overdose mortality.