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Women are also more likely than men to die from overdoses of medicines for mental health conditions, like antidepressants.
Antidepressants and benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety or sleep drugs) send more women than men to emergency departments .
For example, African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native women are more likely than women of other racial and ethnic groups to be victims of rape, physical violence, and stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime—issues that are risk factors for substance use and should be addressed during treatment.
More information can be found in Women of Color: Health Data Book (ORWH/NIH),(PDF, 2.5MB).
For instance, women smoke fewer cigarettes per day, tend to use cigarettes with lower nicotine content, and do not inhale as deeply as men.
It is unclear whether these differences in smoking behaviors are because women are more sensitive to nicotine, because they find the sensations associated with smoking less rewarding, or because of social factors contributing to the difference; some research also suggests women may experience more stress and anxiety as a result of nicotine withdrawal than men .
However, men who are addicted to marijuana have higher rates of other substance use problems as well as antisocial personality disorders.
"Illicit" refers to use of illegal drugs, including marijuana (according to federal law) and misuse of prescription drugs.
Prescription drugs can also be dangerous if mixed together without a physician's guidance, or mixed with other drugs or alcohol. In addition, women may be more likely to take prescription opioids without a prescription to cope with pain, even when men and women report similar pain levels.
Research also suggests that women are more likely to misuse prescription opioids to self-treat for other problems such as anxiety or tension .
Young women are more likely than men to die from this reaction—with almost all reported cases of death occurring in young females between the ages of 15 and 30.
One study indicates that women are more at risk than men for overdose death during the first few years of injecting heroin. One possibility is that women who inject heroin are more likely than their male counterparts to also use prescription drugs—a dangerous combination.