Almost 6 percent of American women – 7.5 million – report using prescription drugs for energy, calm or other reasons, according to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"Many may not consider what they’re doing abuse because they’re using a prescribed drug," said Susan R.B. Weiss, chief of NIDA’s Science Policy Branch. "Many of these medications are being taken as performance-enhancers."
Despite the drop in street drug use, prescription drug abuse has been rising steadily since the 1990s. Men comprise most of the abusers of street drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. Women, however, are just as likely to abuse prescription medications as men. Studies prove that women are often 55 percent more likely to be prescribed a prescription drug, especially narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs.
"Not surprisingly, availability increase abuse patterns," said Weiss.
This has concerned drug abuse experts because women appear to be more vulnerable to addiction to these kinds of drugs. The "superwoman" syndrome may be the explanation. Women overwhelmed by work and family – trying to do it all – are turning to stimulants, painkillers and anti-anxiety medications to get them through their days. A dangerous pattern is emerging.
Abuse of prescription drugs has grown concurrently with spikes in the number of prescriptions for stimulants and painkillers since the early nineties. According to IMS Health, the use of stimulants has nearly tripled over the past ten years. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that women are getting their drugs from someone else’s supply. Some women are even dipping into their child’s ADHD medications. In a survey published in the Journal of Women’s Health, 29 percent of women admitted to sharing or borrowing someone else’s drugs. The survey also found that women ages 18 to 44 did the most sharing or borrowing of medications.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that the primary source of prescription drugs – 56 percent – was drugs from friends and family.