By Yale University

In a commentary published in The Lancet, Women's Health Research at Yale Director Carolyn M. Mazure, and Yale Program in Addiction Medicine Director David A. Fiellin, M.D., called for researchers, clinicians, and policymakers to account for the different ways in which women encounter opioid addiction and treatment.

"As we tackle this epidemic, we must be sure that action plans fully understand and include the influence of gender differences on pain, opioid use, and addiction," Fiellin said. "Women and men are not identical, and we must treat all people with attention to their specific risks and clinical needs."

For example, as outlined in the commentary, women have a greater sensitivity to pain than men and are more likely than men to begin their misuse of opioids through medical treatment. Women are more likely to be prescribed opioids with other medications that increase the likelihood of an overdose. Between 1999 and 2016, overdose deaths from opioid prescriptions increased by 404% for men and 583% for women.

A 2016 study found that emergency medical services were three times less likely to administer the life-saving drug naloxone to women experiencing an opioid overdose that ultimately killed them.