But what exactly makes this generation so much more prone to substance abuse than others? Why, more than any other generation before, are Millennials more likely to fall into patterns of substance use?
Generational drug use
Throughout time, there has always been the emergence of a new drug which has taken the illicit drug market over. During the 60s and 70s, these were hallucinogens and barbiturates, and the 80s and 90s saw an increased use of cocaine and meth. And, throughout all time, alcohol has maintained its ranking as one of the highest abused substances.
Even though adults and young adults alike during those years partook in drug use, they were not as at risk for developing a substance use disorder — whereas studies have shown the same is not true for Millennials. One such study from Trust for America’s Health and Wellbeing stated that from the years 2006-2015, drug-related deaths among Millennials increased to 108 percent and fatal alcohol poisoning rose to 69 percent.
So what is it that’s causing a greater increase in substance use disorders among Millennials than the generations before?
Why are Millennials at a higher risk?
There are a number of general risk factors that may predispose individuals to developing a substance use disorder, but there are certain risk factors in particular which may have Millennials at a higher risk.
This generation is the most educated in history, with most Millennials seeking higher education after high school graduation, but also the most underpaid in comparison to that education. A majority of Millennials put themselves into thousands of dollars worth of debt to earn prestigious degrees, only to be offered low salaries by employers. And some Millennials don’t even get offered a job in their preferred field, forcing them to settle for something unrelated to their expensive education.
Between the student loan debt and limited income, Millennials are under immense amounts of stress which may, as a result, lead to coping in unhealthy ways, i.e. substance abuse.
Increased mental health disorders
Millennials are the first generation to have grown up in a completely technological world and the first to rely heavily on the internet for work, GPS, communication, etc. This all-encompassing access to the internet, to 24/7 news sources and to the addictive nature of social media has greatly increased the mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. Not to mention the financial struggles faced by most Millennials, which greatly increases one’s stress and anxiety.
One of the typical risk factors for developing substance abuse is the existence of an untreated mental health disorder. Millennials have been called “the burnout generation,” as they constantly are left feeling overworked and underwhelmed with results of the energy they expend trying to create a balanced life for themselves. This can predispose them to chronic stress and anxiety, which, in turn, can lead to substance use as a means of self-medication to alleviate these emotions.
Many young people have numerous social media accounts that, although meant to connect them with other users, tend to create more of a disconnect. Furthermore, social media, more often than not, breeds feelings of envy and jealousy; by comparing our lives with the lives of the people we see on social media, we can succumb to a number of negative, harmful thoughts and emotions about our own lives.
While social media can be an addiction within itself, it may also contribute to the development of substance abuse. Whether it’s the result of cyber-bullying, disruption to one’s healthy sleep-wake routine as a result of incessant scrolling or comparison to the lives of others on the internet, social media can be the catalyst which pushes someone into substance abuse.
If you stop to think about it, drugs and alcohol are everywhere in our culture. A large number of states in America have legalized recreational marijuana use, and an even larger numbers have legalized medical marijuana use. Events are characterized by what drinks will be available, like mimosas at Sunday brunch, wine nights on Wednesday or margaritas on taco Tuesday. Movies, music and TV shows constantly have characters smoking, drinking or using drugs.
And regardless of whether these things are viewed positively or negatively, they’re impacting all of us. By watching shows or listening to music that normalize drugs, our perception may slowly begin to change, mostly because these shows don’t actually show the long-term consequences of substance abuse. The same goes for alcohol — the more normal it becomes in everyday life, they less threatening it will be viewed.
The result? A generation which struggles to see the harm in something which is perpetually normalized.
Looking to address a substance use disorder?
If you’re battling a substance use disorder, you’re not alone. Millennials, more than any generation before, have significant risk factors working against them, unfortunately predisposing many of them to a battle with addiction. However, recovery is possible with the right treatment program that addresses both addiction and any underlying mental health conditions.
To begin your journey today, contact Silvermist Recovery anytime to learn more.