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.