Men still die of a drug overdose more frequently than do women, but the rate at which women have been catching up, and the drugs of choice, are staggering.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was quoted as saying, “Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying at rates that we have never seen before.”

At the heart of this near epidemic is prescription pain medication.  Studies indicate that women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain; they use pain medication at higher doses, and for longer durations than men.

“We’ve found that prescription overdose deaths in women have sky-rocketed,” Dr. Karen Mack with the CDC told KTRH.

In a recent study, the CDC found that the number and rate of prescription pain-pill fatal-overdoses has increased fivefold in just two years. They focused on opioids like Vicodin and Oxycontin and they generic forms.

“The gap between men and women dying from overdosing is closing,” says Dr. Mack.

CDC officials believe that 70% of the drug overdoses were unintentional.  Among the surprising findings: the greatest increases in overdoses are in women aged 45 to 54, and 55 to 64.  The rate for those two groups more than tripled in a two year period by 2010.