U.S. Men Are Dying from Drug Overdoses at Rates 2-3 Times Greater Than Women

African American male

In a new study published in Neuropsychopharmacology[i], researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that men in the U.S. are dying from drug overdoses at rates significantly higher than women. The study analyzed 2020-21 death record data from across the U.S.

The differences observed involved opioids (e.g., heroin, fentanyl) and psychostimulants (e.g., cocaine, meth).

What could be behind the difference in overdose deaths?

While it’s known that men are more likely than women to abuse drugs, the researchers were able to discount the impact of that difference as the reason for the higher death rates.

Here are important excerpts from the paper:

“We performed a state-level analysis of recent nationally representative data and found that males, compared to females, have a significantly greater rate of overdose mortality from synthetic opioids, heroin, and stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine…

There are sex differences in the propensity to development of substance-use disorders (SUDs), but they appear unlikely to account for the observed difference in mortality rates…

Sex-specific biological vulnerability to the direct toxic effects of the drugs, for example, cannot be ruled out…”

The researchers hope their findings will lead to more research into the biological, social, and behavioral factors that lead to substance abuse.

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[i] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41386-023-01601-8