Let's face it; the mainstream media doesn't always depict the millennial generation in a flattering light. If you were born in the 1980's or 1990's, you've probably heard some of the stereotypes that older generations associate with yours. Millennials, according to critics, are obsessed with technology and themselves. They're also still young — the oldest among them are still in their early 30s — and their current habits and hobbies are being preserved and publicized by social media. That means their substance use is more visible, which often makes it seem more frequent and excessive too.
Before we evaluate an entire generation's substance use habits, let's take a look at some of the factors that shape their lifestyles and perspectives. Social scientists, scholars, and journalists have been doing exactly this for the past decade, but two examples stand out.
In 2010, the Pew Research Center held a conference that revolved entirely around dissecting the generation's demographics. Panelists found that millennials were more likely to be "pro-institution", averse to risk, comfortable with female leaders, apolitical, family-oriented, careful about their career choices, and interested in improving the world. The takeaway was a portrait of people who are very interested in protecting their own health and safety, and who actively seek the support of government institutions, parents, religious leaders, health professionals, and employers.
They might need that support for years to come. In 2013, a New York Times headline wondered whether millennials "stand a chance in the real world". The short answer? Yes, but it's not completely up to them. Student loan debt continues to grow, as does the gap between the wealthiest and poorest members of the population. Compared with baby boomers at the same age, millennials are more likely to want a house and kids, but it's much harder for them to get a stable job and earn enough money to create that dream.
A lack of economic stability could drive people to adopt a defeatist or destructive mentality, but that's not the case for most millennials. They know the risks associated with drug use and drinking, they value themselves and their futures, and they save money at higher rates. As a result, millennials aren't any more likely to have problematic relationships with drugs or alcohol than past generations. In fact, with the exception of marijuana, they're actually much less likely to use drugs. They also believe in social safety nets, so they're more likely to seek professional help if they have trouble limiting their own substance use.
The apparent correlation between millennials and drug addiction may actually have something to do with political and pharmaceutical changes. Marijuana is now legal in several states, stimulants are considered "study drugs" on college campuses, and opiates are prescribed in greater numbers than ever before. Quite simply, mind-altering drugs are more accessible (and the options more numerous) for today's youngest adults. However, substances themselves can't force anyone to develop harmful habits â€” and generally speaking, millennials usually don't.
If you do find you or a loved one may need help for a substance use issue, please call one of the compassionate and knowledgable Guest Services Consultants at Saint Jude Retreats. They will listen to your concerns, discuss your options, and whether a program at Saint Jude Retreats would be a good fit for what you are looking for in substance use help.