Earlier this week almost all of the major news outlets were discussing painkillers because a study from the CDC revealed that middle-aged women were dying at higher rates than previously reported. I am a trauma surgeon. I deal with pain everyday. I wish I could tell you that there are clues or a key to figuring out if a patient is in pain. There aren’t. For the most part, as a physician, you learn about how much pain medication an average patient requires. When a patient deviates out of this range, it causes concern. This is all that I can tell you. Dealing with patients and their pain is extremely difficult. Narcotics are powerful medications. They’re highly addictive. Everybody understands this. Yet, when a patient is having difficulty breathing because the rib fractures are killing them, we prescribe painkillers, narcotics.

From USA Today:

More women are dying from prescription painkiller overdoses than ever before, highlighting what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls a growing public health epidemic.

The CDC study shows that while men are still more likely to die of overdoses, the number of deaths among women increased five-fold in the last decade, four times more than deaths in women from cocaine and heroin combined, says CDC director Tom Frieden. About 12% of these deaths were suicides, CDC experts said.

The rate of prescription drug overdose deaths of women increased 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared with an increase of 250% for men. More men die of prescription painkiller overdoses — about 23,000 in 2010, compared with 15,300 for women.

“Unfortunately, women are catching up in this regard,” Frieden said.