Millennials, a generation frequently cited for its contrarian and unique consumer preferences, appear to be turning their backs on another industry: opioids. According to a new survey from the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), Americans between 18 and 36 years of age are less likely to use opioids to manage pain.
The survey found that millennials are half as likely as baby boomers (aged 53-71 years) to use opioids, and 20% say they regret using opioids. These numbers don’t come from a lack of pain, however; 75% of millennials said they experienced acute pain and almost 60% have experienced chronic pain.
Millennials also showed a poorer understanding about how to properly use opioids, and are considerably more likely to obtain the drugs without a prescription. The survey found that one in 10 younger respondents said they obtain opioids from someone else’s prescription, and 30% responded that doing so was OK. Those answers compare with just 3% of Generation Xers (aged 36-52 years) and 1% of baby boomers who obtain opioids through another person’s prescription, or the 20% of Generation Xers and 12% of baby boomers who believe it’s appropriate.
“It’s encouraging that millennials see the value of opting for safer and often more effective methods of managing pain,” said ASA President Jeffrey Plagenhoef, MD. “But clearly they are in need of further education when it comes to opioids and chronic pain because using the drugs initially to treat pain can turn into a lifelong struggle with addiction.”
The survey consisted of 10 questions and was conducted online in early August, with 1,011 U.S. adult participants. Millennials made up 34% of respondents.
The survey found that many younger participants prefer using lifestyle changes such as exercise, weight loss or healthy eating to manage pain, an approach that is recommended by the ASA.
“Chronic pain does not have to be an automatic response to aging,” Dr. Plagenhoef said. “Healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercising, proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight, can keep millennials from dealing with some of the chronic pain their parents and grandparents are experiencing.”