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Millennials are less likely to use opioids to manage pain

Millennials are less likely to turn to opioids to address chronic pain, a study has found.

Instead of taking painkillers, people aged 18 to 36 prefer to manage pain by making healthy lifestyle changes, including exercising, eating clean, losing weight and abstaining from smoking, the report explained.

For years, public health researchers have been warning that millennials face far worse chronic in their lifespans than previous generations, given that many of them stare at a computer all day while sitting at a desk.

And given the current addiction epidemic, and increasing accessibility of pain pills, experts have warned this widespread pain could lead to a more dramatic addiction epidemic in decades to come.

However, the researchers of this new report say their unwillingness to try opioids to manage this pain provides hope as America’s opioid addiction crisis continues to grow.

A new study has found that millennials are less likely to take opioids to manage their pain. But when they do take opioids, they are more likely to obtain them illegally, the study said (file photo)

The study, by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) was conducted via an online survey earlier this month and 1,011 US adults participated.

It concluded that millennials are half as likely as baby boomers to use opioids for pain management.

And the study said that one in five millennials who have tried highly addictive painkillers regret doing so.

But millennials are more likely to obtain and consume opioids illegally if they choose to take them. The study said one out of every 10 millennials have gained access to opioids through a prescription that was not written for them.

This was compared to only 3 percent of people in generation X, 1 percent of baby boomers and 3 percent of the silent generation.

Millennials were also found to be less likely to dispose of opioids in a safe manner.

A fifth of the millennials who participated in the study said they did not know the best way to dispose of opioids safely.


The American Society of Anesthesiologists study included participants from the following four age groups: 

  • Millennials: aged 18 to 36
  • Generation X: aged 37 to 52 
  • Baby boomers: aged 57 to 71
  • Silent generation: aged 72 to 92

Thirty-four percent of the participants were millennials, 25 percent were from generation X, 35 percent were baby boomers and 6 percent were from the silent generation.

Of the 1,011 participants, 504 were men and 507 were women. 

And only about 35 percent knew that dropping pills at collection centers – which exist at police stations, hospital pharmacies and drug stores – is the preferred method of disposing of opioids.

The study found that three-fourths of millennials have already experienced acute pain, which lasts less than three months. And 60 percent have had chronic pain, which lasts longer.

The pain they report feeling is often symptomatic of their lifestyles: they can strain their eyes looking at screens and feel aches in their necks, fingers, wrists and arms because of how frequently they use gadgets such as cell phones. Sports injuries also plague the hyperactive generation.

The president of the ASA, Dr Jeffrey Plagenhoef, explained the pros and cons of the study’s findings.

‘It’s encouraging that millennials see the value of opting for safer and often more effective methods of managing pain,’ he said.

Dr Plagenhoef added: ‘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 study provided tips for millennials to help them deal with pain management safely.

One such tip was to refrain from constantly using technological devices. In addition to taking a break from them, the study suggests using them at eye level because looking down at them for long periods of time can be harmful to your neck and back.

Using the talk to text feature is also recommended to avoid straining your fingers and wrists.

Looking away from a screen you are focusing on every 20 seconds can prevent eye damage.

It also warned millennials to remember to warm up before exercising. Stretching beforehand can prevent injuries.

Millennials should also remember to move when they stay in one place for long periods of time. If they are studying in a library or working at a desk all day, it is important for them to get up once at hour, at the least.

Sitting all day without moving can lead to lower back pain, the study said.

The study also recommended doing strength training and aerobic exercises regularly, as well as eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and refraining from smoking.

‘Get healthy,’ the study warned. ‘Take charge of your health now and engage in healthy lifestyle changes before chronic pain sets in.’

But, the study said, if practicing healthy lifestyle changes does not make your chronic pain go away, you should see a specialist.

It said: ‘These specialists have received four years of medical school and additional training in a medical specialty…They have the expertise to best help you manage your pain.’