Studies have shown that gender plays an important role in pain, pain perception, and opioid use. Women are more likely to gain access to opioids through their medical treatment. Not only are women prescribed opioids more often than men (53% vs. 46%), but this number increases with age. Often there is a lack of attention to underlying causes of opioid use disorder (OUD), particularly past sexual or emotional trauma, which can put women at a significantly higher risk for addiction and relapse. Gender-responsive treatment programs, such as the one led by Dr. Ovson at Lakeview Health in Jacksonville, FL, help women address their substance use in an environment that removes stigma and bias.
It’s important to identify gender-specific needs when addressing pain management and OUD, with open discussion being the key to their resolution. “We rarely think about what the person brings to the drug challenge. When it comes to someone who has experienced sexual trauma, a single dose of an opioid might be enough to make continued use more likely and addiction inevitable; a couple of doses, and they feel such relief and lack of tension that they think they’ve found the lock and key to their mental well-being and are more likely to rely on opioids to treat their psychological, rather than physical, trauma. Therefore, screening for prior substance use and trauma prior to prescribing opioids is essential,” stated ASAM McGovern Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Dr. Mark Gold, in this CME Outfitters Snack on how gender effects a patient’s proclivity to substance abuse disorders and engagement in treatment, as well as the emotional components that are often underlying causes of addiction.