Drugs and Drug Classes Involved in Overdose Deaths Among Females, United States: 1999–2017
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Drugs and Drug Classes Involved in Overdose Deaths Among Females, United States: 1999–2017

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  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      J Womens Health (Larchmt)
    • Description:

      Drug overdose deaths among U.S. women have risen steadily from 1999 to 2017, especially among certain ages. Various studies report involvement of drugs and drug classes in overdose deaths. Less is known, however, regarding the combinations that are most often indicated on death certificates, particularly among females. Analyzing mutually, exclusive drug/drug class combinations listed on death certificates of females are the objective of this study.

      Materials and Methods:

      Mortality data for U.S. female residents were obtained from the 1999 to 2017 National Vital Statistics System (n = 260,782). Analyses included deaths with an underlying cause of death based on International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) codes for drug overdoses. The drug/drug class involved included individual 4-digit ICD-10 codes in the range T36.0–T50.9, including poisoning deaths due to all drugs, excluding alcohol. Years from 1999 to 2017 were grouped in six β-year categories with the most recent year (2017) left separate for analysis. All drug overdose deaths were analyzed in mutually exclusive categories.


      From 1999 to 2017, the top-listed drug/drug class overall and by year grouping was solely “other and unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological substances”; however, that listing dropped from 25.8% from the 1999 to 2001 period to 14.1% in 2017. Overall, the next most frequent single drug/drug class mentions were “natural and semisynthetic opioids” (20,951; 8.0%) and “cocaine” (10,882; 4.2%). Two of the top five drug/drug class combinations included benzodiazepines (“natural and semisynthetic opioids”/“benzodiazepines” and “methadone”/“benzodiazepines”).


      Analyzing trends in drugs and drug classes involved in female drug overdose deaths is a critical foundation for developing gender-responsive public health interventions. Reducing high-risk drug use by improving prescribing practices, preventing drug use initiation, and addressing use of multiple drugs can help prevent overdose deaths.

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