NIH Podcast Shines Light on Prescription Drug Abuse in Women

The NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health podcast, “Pinn Point on Women’s Health,” provides updates on women’s health research, and is hosted by Vivian W. Pinn, M.D., director of NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health. This month, Dr. Pinn interviewed Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). According to Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “in general, males tend to take more drugs than females. The exception is the period of time between 12 and 17 years of age. There, we see a higher rate of abuse of most drugs, including psychotherapeutics, among girls than among boys.,” Drugs of abuse also include pain medications that contain opiates, such as Vicodin or OxyContin, as well as stimulant medications, which are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Dr. Volkow noted that adolescent girls have almost 60 to 70 percent higher rates of abuse of these substances than adolescent boys. “Adolescents and young adults take stimulant medications to improve cognitive performance, to study for an exam, or to prepare for something that requires a deadline involving intense work,” Dr. Volkow said. In addition, girls take stimulants in order to lose weight. Stimulant medications are anorexigenic; meaning, they reduce feelings of hunger. Treatment for addiction will depend on the type of psychotherapeutic used. “For opiate analgesics, we have medications that look quite promising. We’re currently conducting a trial to investigate the use of buprenorphine in the treatment of addiction to opiate analgesics, and the results appear to be quite promising,” Dr. Volkow said. There are also several evidence-based behavioral interventions that include motivation intervention strategies, incentive intervention strategies, and group therapy intervention strategies that have been shown to be effective. For information on treatment options in your area, go to or call 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357).