A federal government report has found opioid-related hospitalizations went up dramatically over the past decade, and at a much faster rate for women than men. Local health experts say the study is further proof that issues with prescription painkillers and heroin don't discriminate.
Jesse Russell knows the struggle of addiction firsthand.
"You would not believe how hard of a habit it is to break," he said. "It's just impossible."
Russell has been battling addiction his entire adult life. He says a lot of women he's close with have gone through the same thing, including his young cousin, who he lost a few years ago.
"She was only 18," he said. "It might have been her first time doing it. And somebody just dropped her off in front of a hospital, not knowing what to do."
So to Russell, hearing that opiod-linked hospitalizations are going up faster for women than men comes as no surprise. In fact, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that from 2005 to 2014, they rose 75 percent for women, compared with 55 percent for men.
"That's huge in both genders but especially for women, that's pretty remarkable," noted Dr. Ashley Braun-Gabelman, a clinical psychologist with University Hospital's Addiction Recovery Services.
She says opiate use is evolving.
"About 50 years ago, when you looked at who was addicted to opiates, you were seeing mostly men who were using heroin," she explained.
Now, Dr. Braun-Gabelman says, women are catching up and are just as likely to have the disease as men.
"Women are more likely to be prescribed opiate medication, compared to men, and they're more likely to have chronic pain conditions," she noted as a possible explanation for the rise.
According to Dr. Braun-Gabelman, this study highlights how much more work needs to be done.
"It's just another reminder how serious this problem is in this country and in Ohio, in particular. We're one of the hardest hit states in the country for this opiate problem."
It is a trend Russell hopes will reverse.
"It's a battle that is not going to be won any time soon," he said.