The Opioid Trend in the Millennial Generation

MastHead Outline
December 13, 2022

The generation born between the years 1981 and 1996 grew up alongside our country’s opioid crisis. Sadly, millennials continue to be devastated by these drugs’ far-reaching impact. Read on to learn about opioid trends with millennials and what it will take to help this generation break free. 

What’s Causing the Rising Trend of Opioid Addiction Among Millennials?

Drug dependence, specifically opioid addiction, can affect anyone in any age group. Yet the impact of the opioid crisis on people in their 20s and early 30s has been especially pronounced in the last decade. After baby boomers, millennials are the most at-risk age group for opioid overdose death. Fueled by the opioid crisis, young adults have experienced a 400% increase in drug-related deaths.

Why have opioids risen in prominence among millennials? Here are a few factors that put this age group at risk for opioid addiction. 

Experimentation and Access

When physicians were readily overprescribing opioid painkillers, millennials were at a very vulnerable age where drug experimentation often begins. Homes were stocked with these highly addictive medications, and teenagers didn’t have to go far to try them out. 

Many of the millennials who continue to struggle with opioid addiction first tried these drugs at a young age. Unfortunately, some young people who started with prescription opioids have since switched to heroin or illicit fentanyl.

Financial Instability

Many millennials begin their careers financially unstable, especially when compared to previous generations. Although millennials comprise a large bulk of the workforce, they face a number of overwhelming obstacles, including:

  • Student loan debt.
  • High unemployment rates.
  • Fewer promising career opportunities.
  • Costly health care and insurance.
  • Rising housing costs.

These are just a few factors that can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. Sadly, many millennials turn to opioids to cope.

The Rise of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a highly dangerous opioid. This street drug can be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and users never know how potent their dose will be. Of the 70,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2019, death-rates”>over half involved fentanyl. The high potency and low cost of fentanyl draw many millennials to seek it out on its own or combined with heroin.

Something’s Got to Give

With the lives of young adults hanging in the balance, the United States urgently needs more evidence-based treatment programs — especially those that focus on the needs of the individual. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is considered the most effective treatment option for opioid dependence. Medications like buprenorphine suppress withdrawal symptoms and cravings so those struggling with addiction can focus on recovery.

Combined with counseling, SAMHSA promotes MAT as an effective approach to treating opioid addiction. Increasing access to this form of treatment is the best long-term solution to fight the rising opioid addiction trend among millennials.