Since National Women's Health Week (May 12-18, 2019) overlaps with today's National Prevention Week topic, I felt it was so important to focus on the opioid epidemic from the female perspective. In fact, with funding from the federal Office on Women's Health, Wellspring has been doing just this over the past two years, through our awareness and prevention efforts. At the time of the original funding, most of the information and data were coming from the federal government. Now we are seeing more local New Jersey efforts.
In this same magazine article, Nathan Fried, PhD, assistant professor of biology at Rutgers University-Camden, indicates that – just as in Kim Govak's case – women sometimes have higher dosages of opioids prescribed to them than males, and that healthcare providers are seeing more women experiencing chronic pain at higher rates than their male counterparts. He also mentions that anxiety and depression impact females at a higher rate.
Additional insight in this article was provided by Richard Jermyn, DO, director of the Neuro-Musculoskeletal Institute at Rowan University. He indicated that hormones and metabolism play a big role which make women more sensitive to the effects of drugs used.
Kim Govak's story also brings focus to a reality that women face in terms of accessing and committing to treatment, even when it is available. From putting their own healthcare needs after those of their families to fear of negative judgements by child protective services, women have a harder time when it comes to recovery. Today, as director of the Living Proof Recovery Center in Voorhees, Kim works to help other women seeking to recover from opioid misuse. She recently celebrated 13 years in recovery and she is an inspiration to all.
As a person in recovery, a prevention specialist and someone who has the privilege to work with youth, I get to target this population and topic every day. For our grant programs funded by the Office on Women's Health, we are targeting young women age 10-17 years, as well as older women age 50+. I have been working with young girls, providing services, information and skills to minimize the risk of substance use and poor decision making. We promote girls supporting each other, finding power in their voices and engaging in healthy activities after school through our Girl's Empowerment Groups. This positive reinforcement has made a world of a difference in the lives of girls who have participated. They felt so strongly about this that they developed some peer messages to share what they have learned with other girls. We will be posting these and other resources as part of our Women's Health Week promotion.
For any additional information about prevention of opioid misuse in women across the lifespan, contact Wellspring at 732-254-3344.