Millennials Down on Opioids

Millennials Down on Opioids

By Ed Coghlan

The Millennial Generation looks at opioids differently than their parents.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists released a survey that said millennials are half as likely as baby boomers to turn to opioids to manage pain.

Rather they use exercise, healthy eating, losing weight and overall wellness strategies.

But while the results reflect an anti-opioid trend, they also reveal a knowledge gap. The survey found many millennials were:

  • More likely to obtain opioids inappropriately. One in 10 millennials obtained opioids through another household member’s prescription, compared to 3 percent of Gen Xers, 1 percent of baby boomers and none of the silent generation.
  • More likely to think it’s OK to take an opioid without a prescription. Nearly 30 percent of millennials thought it was OK to take an opioid without a prescription, compared to 20 percent of Gen Xers, 12 percent of baby boomers and 3 percent of the silent generation.
  • AND less likely to dispose of leftover opioids safely. In fact, 1 in 5 millennials said they “did not know” the best way to safely dispose of opioids, and only 37 percent were aware that a collection center at a local police station, hospital pharmacy or drug store was the best method of disposal.

“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, M.D. “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.”

Seventy five percent of millennials say they have had acute pain (which comes on suddenly and lasts less than three months) and nearly 60 percent have experienced chronic pain (which lasts longer than three months). The source of that pain is reflective of millennials’ lifestyle, including technology use (leading to eye strain, neck aches, hand or finger pain, wrist or arm pain), migraines and sports injuries.

According to the survey, millennials (ages 18-36) and members of Generation X (ages 37-52) are most likely to report pain interfered with their work responsibilities, parenting abilities and participation in family activities.

It’s important to address pain before it interferes with quality of life by seeing the right specialist for pain management.  Not surprisingly, the ASA says whatever the age, people in severe pain who don’t find relief through lifestyle changes should see a physician who specializes in pain management, such as a physician anesthesiologist.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Sheryl M Donnell

The entire world thinks they don’t need opioids for chronic pain until they actually experience chronic, intractable, unrelenting pain and find out no matter what they do, their disease will continue to cause pain that will keep them from eating, sleeping, and daily activities. Then, they too will beg for any amount of relief. I never thought I would be taking them daily either. Surveys like this hurt the pain community more than they help. 10 plus year fighting CRPS.

Alan Edwards

Well stated. Chronic severe pain sufferers have no voice of their own. The doctors are cowards in the USA and Great Britain. Then,God forbid, you suffering every minute of every day from intractable pain, are prescribed an opioid at a pain clinic. You think your pharmacy will simply fill this legal prescription, but not now. You may be pharmacy shamed immediately by your pharmacist. They may make rude comments. Then after putting a bird in the insurance companies ear, your pain medication will be delayed or stopped. Even if you offer to pay the entire cost. You are also flagged as a drug user and reported to the local police. All because of stupidity. All this has happened to me. I have brain and spine damage plus an unknown neuropathy. Also spastic cerebral palsy.
Another pharmacy misbehavior is never totally filling the opioid script. Making you come back over and over. This is just a small sample of what I endure. I have been almost pain free 6 years thanks to opioids but have paid the price What a world we live in. Chronic pain patients are being targeted not addicts.

Julia McDonald-Carberry

There is an entire world of ignorance out there about pain & pain management, as well as the appropriate use of opioids to manage specific types of pain no other medication or procedure can do successfully among those surveyed. There is a silent group of sufferers of chronic pain who have no other option but to take the opioids they are prescribed by expert pain management physicians after all other options have been explored in order to live a life of any quality whatsoever. In addition, legitimate chronic pain patients are not addicts & rarely, if ever become addicted to the medications their PM physicians prescribe since they use them appropriately to manage chronic pain rather than seek some temporary state of euphoria. In fact, most legitimate patients suffering from chronic pain due to an illness or injury have little interest in visiting a specialist once a month to have their urine tested, which they must pay the bulk of the cost to have done (average price $350.00), of which insurance covers only about $50.00, pay exorbitant prices for specialist visits every single month ($600.00 per visit, most really good insurance only cover half of that expense) for years & years, pay for expensive medications ($600.00 to $800.00 per mo, insurances vary on % of coverage or will not cover at all nowadays) every single month, month after month, year after year & spend their entire lives in fear of losing their physician or having their medication discontinued & be forced to change to a different medication that is not as effective & more dangerous to the brain or organs in their body. Most chronic pain sufferer’s primary concern is the cost they pay to live as normal a life as possible & have no interest in wasting a single bit of their very expensive medications on momentary highs or addictive behaviours, which I might add take effort, since chronic pain sufferer’s are typically prescribed extended release (ER) medications. Those have thick coatings & require preparation (similar to cooking heroine or cocaine prep) before they can even be ingested to use as a source of high so a person can become addicted to the drug no matter what the media, DEA, FDA or CDC & others have said. I happen to know all of this, as I am a chronic pain sufferer of 19+ years forced to take opioids like it or not, since there is no other effective treatment available to manage my pain & hasn’t been for the 19+ years since my spinal chord was severely injured & my sciatic nerve was scraped of its mylan sheath leaving me with severe nerve damage & neuropathy, as well as RLS. I have been on the same dosage of an opioid medication at the same strength for the past 19+ years & never requested or needed more. It has worked a miracle & allowed me to lead an almost normal life. At least I did lead an almost normal life… Read more »


Wait…so they’re more likely to steal it, more likely to not think it’s a big deal to take it when it’s not prescribed but less likely to take it for chronic pain. And this is good news? It seems to me that the data is pointing to them using these drugs illegally and for entertainment value.

Alan Edwards

National pain report and it’s editorials appear more politically correct and less medically correct. That accomplishes nothing for the millions of chronic pain patients being disabled by pain and horrible non-opioid treatments like the lucrative use of antidepressants like nortriptyline and amitriptyline. Try getting off of amitriptyline. I have. The withdrawal is so severe it can kill. And can last for 4 years (if your brain and body is not neuroplastic). If you are born with predisposing conditions and genetically predisposed, then all the exercise and massage in the world will not help. Opioids are the answer for many and should be humanely prescribed. Politics should never treat pain.

Neldine Ludwigson

Yeah, when I was young I didn’t want to take any pill either. Let’s see where they are when they get past their mid fifties and they have chronic pain issues that a couple aspirin and a hot shower won’t help.


My problem is it’s 2017 and no one has the technology to take away coccyx pain. I am on CBD and still my quality of life is unbearable. I am married and there is no normal life as a couple. I get epiturals every three months that last one week. So one week of the year I feel semi normal. I truly can see why people opt for euthanasia. Is there nothing they can do for people like me

Stacy Cooper

Most of them turn to marijuana too. Learning in highschool that it’s natural and not addicting. Opiods are prevalent on school grounds but as a party agent. Again, if someone wants to get high they can find several easy to come by methods.


I think lots vhoose cannibus instead

Steven Smith

Ed, I have been reading npr for some time. For someone with intractable pain that began 18 years ago and was so bad they needed disability and tramadol back then and now is severe enough they need more much more than that. Are they now somehow suppossed to take a swim and be cured? I suggest you review npr articles of a year ago when we were still treating pain. This is just inhumane treatment at best and naturally leads to unwanted outcomes for everyone.


Sounds like to me, all these Millennial’s just want to get HIGH, they are the clowns that make it bad for actual Chronis-Pain Patient’s.

Mark Ibsen MD

My daughter is 21. In college on a soccer scholarship.
She has injured her hips with labral tears.
My state board had me up on charges for giving her toradol.

The charges were dismissed, after yet another hearing.
Now she won’t even take THAT for her pain.

Millenials see that the system is corrupt.
They see there is no reason to trust entities that repeatedly lie to them
About them
About others.
They go stealth.

This is what happens when institutions lose credibility.
Like the CDC, which ought to know exactly what an epidemic IS, and what it is NOT.

The pain mess has been a harbinger of loss of integrity throughout all laters of our culture. Distrust.
All come from loss of integrity.
Let’s begin to restore that;
The American way.

This is based on the most ridiculous rational I can think of. The reason Millennials are “half as likely to turn to opioids than baby boomers” is that they are still young and don’t have nearly as much pain yet as the older generation of baby boomers. I never needed opioids to help control my pain until I was in my 50s either. How many Millennials are over 50? None of them I don’t believe. Just stupidity that they actually gave this study any credit.


Not True, Its the younger adults who use opiates as a way to get high. They enjoy it. When I was growing up in the 70s, No one I knew was shooting up crushing pills or opiates. Seems to be a attack on the people who suffer from chronic pain. There are ways to deal with pain,rather then just high levels of drugs

Kahty C

An Anti Opiod Trend” indeed. Clearly these “Millennials” believe opiates are OK for Partying, or an occasional bad day, but they would use “Lifestyle activities” to deal with Chronic Pain. This is indicative of the current narrative. First there iis only a subjective breakdown of how any have even dealt with pain. A broken bone or short term Injury is not Chronic Pain. The Title is meaningless and overstated. The current narrative in every Media outlet is that “Wellness” can cure Chronic pain, It seems reasonable until it effects them personally. They do not make a distinction between a little over use of a few muscles or recovering from multiple surgeries. This shows the ignorance and misleading dialogue around this subject. The “Wellness’ narrative has been in every TV Commercial, Newspaper Articles, Commercials to peddle everything from useless supplements to diet beer. Here in Post Fact America, it is about what they believe, no relation to the facts. According to this “Survey” Millennials believe if it comes out of Grandma’s medicine cabinet it is OK for partying. The Media told the Grandma with her 5 hip surgeries, could be an Addict. Most people in general would not consider opiates until they experience long term pain. Articles like this are misleading. We do not have an “Opiod Epidemic” because people took Opiates for Pain, we have an Epidemic of Despair. These kinds of Articles have further confused the public, Stigmatized both Addicts and people with pain. It looks like this narrative is still adding to the death toll, not only from Opiates, But alcohol, Suicide and Despair. What gets me is why they chose to reprint this Article here on a Pain Website. There were a; lot of more meaningful Articles, TV Shows and sources of more factual information, but they chose this for a reason. Who cares what “Millennials Believe” this week. They believe exactly what the media told them. I used to believe all of that too. I believed Chiropractors, Healthy Diet and exercise would keep me healthy. I also ‘Believed” Opiates were for cancer Patients, and were addictive. Perhaps these beliefs, along with the belief that Physicians would not lie, contributed to my ‘Intractable Chronic Pain.” We don;t have any facts anymore, they have to do Surveys on Beliefs. These beliefs will change the very minute these subjects experience pain themselves. For now regurgitating nonsense they heard from the media, is enough. This is how we got here. People believed the Pharma Marketing, instead of History, and common sense. People also believed the current misleading narrative. Facts are just too hard to come by, so lets look into ‘Beliefs.” The way this topic has been distorted by the Media and so called Legitimate outlets, has made this even worse. People with Chronic Pain are more stigmatized than the “Addicts.” These Survey takers believe that occasional Opiate abuse is OK for Partying, and they are probably right. The facts here are in short supply too. All of the Drug… Read more »


And, up until about ten years ago, most anesthesiologists spent most of their time keeping people asleep, in the operating room. Now they are advising those of us with chronic pain?! They have turned their profession into a money making scheme, to scam people out of more of their money, at least in my experience! Their first interest seems to be figuring out how to use the most profitable (to them) means of treatment.They are not the best source of information when trying to rid one’s self of pain.


I can’t help but emote sarcasm in response to this data-having millennial children.
Conduct this research when they experience sciatica, herniated disks, DDD and other ailments more likely to occur when they reach AARP membership!!! Time will tell.

P. Orona

What a joke! I’d like to know how these people feel in a few years when their bodies begin truly aging.

Tim Mason

Good Article Ed. Spot on.
Millennials are also chemo phobic even if they obtain chemistry degrees. Many are opioid phobic. The American Chemical Society (ACS) had a webinar earlier this year – Chemo phobia – “How did we get here? What do we do about it?”
Throughout history each generation has had it great fear. GMO Foods, DDT, etc and not this generation is scared of Opioids. Even new physicians have believed the hype and fear taught them in school.
This is not a generation of Risk takers. We got to the moon and back on a slide rule in 1968.
These opinions are formed by the media they consume 24 hours/day.
I hate to say it but we have let a generation of idiots out breed us.
Thanks for listening.