Home » News » Risk for Prescription Drug Abuse Varies by Gender

Risk for Prescription Drug Abuse Varies by Gender

A new study finds that gender plays a role in the risk for abuse of prescription pain medications.

Harvard researchers studied 662 chronic non-cancer pain patients who take opioid pain medications.

Each individual was surveyed with standard pain assessment questionnaires to examine rates and characteristics of problematic opioid use, profiles of risk factors for potential misuse, and predictive associations between risk factors and subsequent misuse behavior.

The researchers assumed that predictors of misuse would be different in men and women, with misuse among women closely related to psychological distress.

“Since little has been published about gender differences and misuse of prescription pain medication, it is valuable to document whether risk factors for abuse are gender-specific to some degree,” said Robert N. Jamison, PhD, lead author and a clinical psychologist at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“This could help clinicians be more proactive in adopting risk-prevention interventions.”

The results of the study showed that men and women have similar frequencies of aberrant drug behavior, but gender differences were found in risk factors for misuse of opioid medications.

“Our analysis showed that drug misuse by women is motivated more by emotional issues and psychological distress while in men this behavior usually stems from problematic social and behavioral problems that lead to substance abuse,” said Jamison.

“Further, women who misuse pain drugs are more likely to admit to being sexually or physically abused or have a history of psychiatric or psychological problems.”

The study recommended that for women being treated with opioids for chronic non-cancer pain with evidence of significant affective stress, clinicians should treat the mood disorder and counsel on the dangers of relying on opioids to reduce stress and improve sleep.

For men, closer monitoring of known or suspected behavioral problems, frequent urine screens, pill counts and compliance monitoring are recommended to help reduce risks for drug misuse.

The study is published in The Journal of Pain, the peer review journal of the American Pain Society.

Source: American Pain Society

Risk for Prescription Drug Abuse Varies by Gender

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Risk for Prescription Drug Abuse Varies by Gender. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.