Addiction to prescription painkillers is on the rise — especially for women. A  study of 500 patients in Canada found that 52% of women cited doctor-prescribed painkillers as their first contact with opioids, compared with 38% of men. The women also reported higher rates of heroin use.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent uncovered similar findings. The CDC reported that prescription painkiller overdoses killed five times more women in 2010 than in 1999. Nearly 6,600 women died from a painkiller overdose in 2010, or about 18 per day. Every three minutes, a women goes to the emergency department for prescription painkiller misuse.

Of course, prescription painkillers can be an effective way to manage pain. To be safe, there are some things you should do if they’re prescribed to you:

Talk with your doctor before taking prescription painkillers. Let him or her know if there are factors that could increase the chance of you becoming addicted — such as if you or a family member has struggled with addiction, if you have a history of childhood trauma, or have a mental health condition.

Use painkillers exactly as prescribed. Use prescription drugs as only directed by your doctor. Never increase the number of pills you take or the frequency with which you take them without consulting your doctor first.

Lock the medicine cabinet. Keep the prescription painkillers in a secure place where they can’t be accessed those who might abuse them – such as kids and young adults. When you’ve finished our treatment, properly dispose of any leftover medication.

Know the warning signs: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that people who have a drug abuse issue tend to:

  • Spend a significant amount of time thinking about drugs
  • Try to stop using drugs, and find that they cannot
  • Need drugs in order to feel good or have a good time
  • Use drugs while angry
  • Make mistakes at work or school due to drug use
  • Hoard drugs, in order to avoid running out of them

Seek addiction treatment. If you find that you need to take more of the drug to feel results, “doctor shop” to get additional prescriptions, or are experiencing any of the other warning signs listed above, reach out for professional help from an addiction treatment center. Breaking free of prescription drug addiction takes much more than willpower. Fortunately, counseling and treatment can improve the chances of successfully overcoming your addiction.