This is an extremely interesting and relevant topic. However, I feel you could have dived deeper into the effect of the current opioid epidemic.
As you noted, pain pill abuse and addiction is on the rise here in the US, where we consume something like 80% of the world’s annual supply of opioids. Part of the reason for this is the decades-long increase in prescriptions being written out for everything from wisdom teeth removal to sprained ankles.
Of course, these two examples — as well as some others — are encountered in youth rather than middle age.
Thus, over the past 20–30 years, we’ve had a rise in painkiller prescriptions (greatly helped along by the miscommunication of addiction potential — purposeful or not), coinciding with the typical trappings and physical ailments of what is currently the nation’s largest living generation.
It all adds up to opioids recently being named the number one killer of people under 50 — a majority of whom qualify as Millennials.
This is a horrifying reality right now. But we must look toward the future as well.
As Millennials continue to age, more and more will lose coverage under their parents’ insurance plans. Some will be able to afford their own health insurance, while others will not. Many in the generation are still feeling the effects of the last recession, and student loan debt and stagnant wages are also contributing to potential financial woes.
The other option is social welfare like Medicaid — however the continued availability of which is currently up for debate.
When obtaining these pills becomes prohibitive, those addicted or even in need of chronic pain relief are turning to heroin, which is far cheaper to purchase off the street. Of course, the emergence of Fentanyl and Carfentanil have turned each hit into a game of Russian roulette.
This is all to say that we probably haven’t seen these disconcerting and tragic numbers peak.
So, I’d agree that some of these charts don’t take into account that Millennials have simply traded some drugs for others…but is today’s young drug abuser simply better at hiding these vices?
Well, if you can still get a prescription, you don’t necessarily need to.
Today’s opioid and heroin addict doesn’t fit the stereotype that many Millennials were brought up with; the dark, gaunt, strung out junkie. Instead, addicts come from all genders, creeds, backgrounds — and ages.
The only thing in my opinion that could help begin to turn the tide is a focused approach to addiction recovery, relying on evidence-based treatment and a more widespread understanding of the disease.
I can only hope that this is the generation that makes that happen.