Risk factors for fatal drug overdoses vary by gender

Risk factors for fatal drug overdoses vary by gender

Risk factors for relapse following treatment for opioid use disorder vary by gender, according to a University of Southern California (USC) study.

For women, risk factors included post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, conduct disorder symptoms, and greater withdrawal symptoms. For men, risk factors included a history of conduct disorder, greater substance use-related problems, and multiple substance use disorders. For both genders, youth also was a risk factor.

“These results suggest that women would particularly benefit from treatments that aggressively address withdrawal symptoms with appropriate medications and cognitive-behavioral approaches,” Jordan Davis, lead author and assistant professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, said. “In contrast, men would likely benefit most from cognitive-behavioral and mutual-help interventions that directly target substance use behaviors and support the development of pro-social behaviors.”

Davis also is USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society associate director. Researchers used machine learning to discover risk factor trends, analyzing more than 30 predictors of opioid relapse.

Researchers examined 1,100 individuals for more than a year, checking in at three, six, and 12 months after discharge from a treatment facility. During that year, approximately half of the participants used an opioid at least once.

Future studies should explore ways to mitigate these specific and different vulnerabilities, the researchers said.