Snapshot of Addiction Across Generations

Snapshot of Addiction Across Generations

Snapshot of Addiction Across Generations

Drug use is not exclusive to teens and young adults. There are a number of environmental and genetic factors that contribute to a person’s vulnerability to substance abuse disorder. Education, mental health, stress coping abilities, and family ties are common elements that can contribute to drug and alcohol abuse. Age is another influencer when it comes to drug addiction susceptibility and substance preference. Research on addiction across generations reveals when people first step into drug use, the type of substance used (based on age), and the likelihood of drug addiction treatment.

Substance Use Disorder and Adolescence

Most people use drugs for the first time during their teen years. In 2017, 14 percent of high school students had used select illicit drugs. They defined these as cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, hallucinogens, or ecstasy. This is according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just 1.5 percent admitted to using an injectable illegal drug and 14 percent identified they had misused prescription opioids. The survey identified the opioids like codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, or Percocet, used without a prescription or differently than indicated by a doctor.

For this age group, the survey reveals there was no significant difference in the percentage of males or females who had tried illicit drugs. However, a large difference was noted between the sexes when it came to injectable drugs. More than twice as many males had ever injected any illegal drug.

Some of the noted warning signs of substance abuse disorder in adolescence include:

  • Change in friends
  • Declining school performance
  • Erratic behavior
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Significant mood swings or depression

Research shows that if alcohol and drug use is not addressed during the adolescent phase of life, it’s likely to continue into adulthood.

Substance Use Disorder and Young Adults

College-age adults, those identified as 18 to 25-years-old, are classified as the heaviest drug users by those studying addiction across generations. Marijuana is commonly known as the introductory illicit drug used by this and the younger age group. In fact, daily marijuana use is now the highest it’s been since the early 1980s for those aged 19 to 22.

Heavy alcohol use is another major concern for young adults. Studies show those who attend college are more likely to binge drink (consume five or more drinks in a row) and become intoxicated. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reveals 32.4 percent of college students report partaking in binge drinking in the past two weeks compared to only 28.7 percent of non-college young adults. In addition, four in ten college students report being intoxicated in the past month. Only three in ten non-college young adults say they’ve been drunk in the same time period.

Finally, college students also appear to have higher rates of amphetamine misuse, which has been thought to improve academic performance. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says there is no evidence that these substances increase performance long-term. College students who reported Ritalin use in the past year were 2.4 percent, while non-college peers reported use at a rate of 1.6 percent. Adderall use in the past year was reported by 9.9 percent of college students but only 6.2 percent of their non-college peers.

generation z addiction rates and trends

Substance Use Disorder and Middle Adulthood

For older Millennials and Generation X, dependency revolves around pain killers and alcohol. Nine in 10 adults who drink too much alcohol are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent. This is according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Furthermore, roughly one-third of adults age 35 to 54 is an excessive drinker. Most adults report binge drinking on multiple occasions. The American Osteopathic Association reports binge-drinking is typical behavior for 7 percent of adults aged 35 to 44 and 10 percent of adults aged 45 to 54.

Misuse or substance use disorder involving prescription pain killers has swept through the Millennial generation like no other drug. Roughly one in every three Americans say they know someone who’s addicted to opioids. The familiarity of the drug has increased accessibility. More than half (52%) of Millennials say it would be “easy” to obtain opioids if they wanted. Slightly fewer (41%) Baby Boomers have the same feeling. The ease of getting the drug has also awakened the majority of adults to the epidemic. Three-quarters of U.S. adults (74 percent) say they “understand how someone accidentally gets addicted to opioids.”

millennials addiction rates and trends

Substance Use Disorder and Older Adults

Studies show illicit and prescription drug use among older adults, those 65 and older, is increasing, but alcohol remains the most commonly abused substance among the retired population.  Alcohol dependence among older adults is particularly dangerous because of the body’s natural deterioration that’s already occurring. While alcohol may be the substance of choice, the opioid epidemic has spotlighted addiction across generations. First-time treatment admissions for primary opioid use disorder (OUD) in adults age 55 and older have almost doubled since 2007. Research shows heroin users accounted for almost the entire doubling of opioid treatment admissions in older adults in those years.

baby boomers addiction rates and trends

How to Treat Addiction Across Generations

Understanding how to treat the substance use disorder of a college student and elderly individual (and everyone in between) is the specialty of the drug specialists at Springboard Recovery. Addiction treatment is available for individuals of any age. Our staff treats every patient as an individual. A customized drug treatment plan is created for the patient to ensure they have the best opportunity at success. Contact our skilled team today to learn more about personalized treatment options for yourself or a loved one.


If you found this information helpful, please share on social media!

addiction across the generations

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Springboard Recovery was born from the passion and personal experience of its founders. We understand the real-world challenges of early recovery and are here to help and we are passionate about helping our clients lead balanced, healthy, and fulfilling lives.