Are Prescription Drugs the Greatest Threat to Millennials?
Across the United States, the prescription drug epidemic is growing. Millennials may be one of the groups most at risk for prescription drug addictions. Explore why millennials have so much access to these drugs, why use is growing and what can be done to stop or recover from addictions.
Millennials Use Prescription Drugs More Than Any Other Generation
First, it is important to look at the facts. The truth is that millennials use prescription drugs more than any other generation. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are close behind, with prescription drug use rates of eight percent. However, at 12 percent, millennials are clearly using prescription medications more than any other generation.
Once that fact has been established, it is time to determine whether drug use, as a whole, is simply more common among younger individuals. Age certainly does play a role in experimental drug use for many individuals.
However, that isn’t the solution in and of itself. Drug use among millennials is actually lower than it was for previous generations at the same age. That means that while overall drug use hasn’t gone up, prescription drug use has increased. Therefore, it is important to take a closer look at some of the factors that might be contributing to that fact.
Rising Awareness of Mental Health Disorders
In many ways, the increased awareness of mental health is a good thing. Previous generations, for example, didn’t always get the right treatment for mental health conditions, and that can lead to many disastrous effects. However, increased awareness means increased prescription medication. This can lead to comfort and familiarity with taking pills.
It is critical to understand that not all millennials are securing prescription medications illegally. In fact, more than one-third of all teens who abuse prescription drugs actually hold a valid prescription. It is more than possible that a person who has a legitimate medical concern, such as a mental health problem, has increased access to prescription drugs.
There is also a greater familiarity with prescription medications. It is now considered normal to take at least some form of prescription medication, whether for anxiety when flying or to combat ADHD. While treating these conditions isn’t the problem, it might mean that many millennials don’t have a healthy distrust of medications.
Without that healthy respect for unknown medications, some millennials might be comfortable taking risks with medicine. This can lead to things like sharing prescription drugs and using them without medical supervision.
Accessibility is Unprecedented
It would be a mistake to look at the rise of millennials using prescription drugs as an isolated event. The reality is that this is part of a much larger, and rapidly growing, prescription drug epidemic.
It is estimated that around the world, more than 36 million people are addicted to prescription opioid drugs. Many more use and abuse other types of prescription medication. Millennials aren’t the only ones using prescription drugs inappropriately. However, they are among the first generations to mature with such incredible access to prescription medications.
Access to prescription medications is easier today than it has been at any time in the past. A quick online search will show teens, for example, what symptoms to report at a doctor’s office in order to gain a prescription for certain medications. According to one survey, as many as 90 percent of college students know where to access prescription stimulants right on campus.
Millennials can also easily secure prescription medications by going to so-called “pain clinics” found around the country. These are places frequented by those with chronic pain or a lack of health insurance. Unfortunately, however, they are also widely abused by those who need large amounts of prescription pain medications.
Millennials don’t actually have to step foot into a doctor’s office or purchase illicit drugs in order to gain access to prescription medications. Often, they are readily accessible at home. Parents and grandparents may not properly store or dispose of old medications. Some millennials may take these medications, and it will go unnoticed by the actual prescription holder.
Addictive Nature of Certain Prescription Drugs
It is a common misconception that prescription drugs are somehow safer, or less risky, than street drugs like cocaine or heroin. In reality, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous. While they often have legitimate medical purposes, they are similar to any other drug when used recreationally and without direct medical recommendation and supervision.
In fact, some prescription drugs can actually be more addictive that so-called street drugs. Synthetic prescription drugs are designed for specific purposes, and those purposes may include complete anesthesia or complete sedation. During a medical emergency, after an accident or during a surgery, these medications are critical. For recreational use, however, they can be astonishingly destructive.
Arguably the most worrying class of prescription medications used by millennials is opiates. Prescription opioid medications can cause addiction in a matter of days. Once addiction has developed, treatment is a necessity. Without confronting the addiction, it can develop into a heroin addiction or be the cause of a fatal overdose.
Treating Millennials With Prescription Drug Addictions
When millennials are diagnosed with an addiction to prescription drugs, it is important to take the problem seriously. Ignoring an addiction to prescription drugs will lead to increasing health, relationship and financial problems. The formula of detox, addiction treatment and ongoing care is standard, although some millennials can rely on slight variations that appeal to their interests.
There is evidence to suggest that the treatment gap for millennials is greater than for prior generations. For that reason, it is critical that friends and family encourage professional assistance.
It is worth noting that many addiction treatment programs cater to millennials by offering modern programs and an updated curriculum. Ongoing care may include a digital component to ensure compliance and accessibility to all participants.
There is little doubt that millennials are a generation with unparalleled access to prescription drugs. However, awareness and education is also growing, which can help millennials as well as future generations achieve and maintain sobriety.