Millennials Less Likely to Manage Pain with Opioids

Millennials half as likely as baby boomers to take opioids to treat pain.

While many millennials spend their days working on computers, they also spend their free time exercising or playing sports. Despite their young age, this group of individuals report that acute and chronic pain are impacting their quality of life, according to a study conducted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

Included in the nationwide survey included were 1011 adults: 34% were millennials (aged 18 to 36 years), 25% were from Generation X (aged 37 to 52), 35% were baby boomers (aged 53 to 71 years), and 6% were from the silent generation (aged 72 to 92 years).

The results of the survey indicate that millennials prefer lifestyle changes, such as exercising, healthy eating, smoking cessation, and weight loss, over taking opioids for pain management.

Millennials were found to be half as likely as baby boomers to treat pain with opioids. Even when millennials used opioids for pain, approximately 1 in 5 participants regretted it, according to the survey.

While these findings are positive overall, the authors also discovered a knowledge gap regarding opioids.

The authors found that 1 in 10 millennials obtained the drugs from someone else’s prescription compared with 3% of Gen X participants, 1% of baby boomers, and 0% of silent generation participants, according to the study.

Additionally, nearly 30% of millennials said that taking opioids without a prescription was okay, compared with 20% of Gen X participants, 12% of baby boomers, and 3% of silent generation participants.

Notably, 1 in 5 millennials were not aware of how to properly dispose of opioids. Only 37% of this generation were aware that the drugs could be disposed of at police stations, hospital pharmacies, or at a drug store, according to the study.

These findings suggest that more outreach is needed to inform this population about opioids.

"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, MD. "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."

Proper pain management techniques are vital to all populations, especially since 75% of millennials reported acute pain and 60% report chronic pain. The authors discovered that millennials and Gen X participants were the most likely to report that pain restricted their ability to work, parent, or partake in family activities, according to the study.

Although pain management specialists can help ease symptoms, the ASA said that making lifestyle changes prior to chronic pain onset is the best method. Approaches to prevent chronic pain are also recommended.

"Chronic pain does not have to be an automatic response to aging," Dr Plagenhoef said. "Healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising, proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight can keep millennials from dealing with some of the chronic pain their parents and grandparents are experiencing."