Why Millenials are Dying of Opioid Overdoses
Young adults aged twenty-five to thirty-four are experiencing higher rates of drug overdose and death. Between 2015 and 2016, the death rate for millennials rose by more than 10 percent, partially due to opioid overdoses (Castaneda, 2018).
Howard Samuels, a licensed therapist, founded The Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles after overcoming his own addiction to both heroin and cocaine. In an interview with U.S. News’ Ruben Castaneda, he explains the various factors that make millennials vulnerable to opioid addiction and overdose. One major factor is the emergence and availability of fentanyl. “Fentanyl is fifty to one hundred times stronger than morphine and up to fifty times more potent than heroin. Of the more than 64,000 overdose deaths in the US in 2016, more than 20,000 involved fentanyl,” Samuels states (Castaneda, 2018). Fentanyl is being added to increase the potency of heroin, but Samuels warns, “It’s like flipping a coin, you just don’t know. Heroin doesn’t come with a list of ingredients on the side. It makes the heroin much more dangerous today than it was when I was shooting up thirty five years ago” (Castaneda, 2018).
Another reason why “the opioid epidemic is hitting millennials so hard” is because of substance suse disorders beginning in their teen years. “The opiates are so plentiful it becomes one of those drugs that people automatically try when they’re starting out,” Samuels says. “So, they start out by smoking weed, then they try ecstasy and cocaine, and then heroin is so plentiful you may as well try that. It’s a natural progression,” he explains (Castaneda, 2018).
The abundance and lethality of fentanyl may not be a deterrent to opioid use, Samuels remarks, it could even “be an attraction.” Samuels recounts, “when there was a brand of heroin on the street that was killing people, we wanted that brand because it meant it was really, really good. Our rationale was, ‘Well, the person who overdosed and died just didn’t know what they were doing.’ And that’s what [some] millennials think today” (Castaneda, 2018).
The final reason for millenials’ vulnerability to opioid addiction is that treatment is prohibitively expensive. It is estimated that in 2016 only “eleven percent of those who needed treatment for substance misuse” received it. “Ninety-three percent of young adults ages eighteen to twenty five who needed substance misuse treatment did not get it,” writes Castaneda (2018).
Edward Haaz, licensed counselor, certified addictions specialist, and board member of Livengrin Foundation tells Castaneda, “many people, including large numbers of millennials, simply don’t have access to substance abuse treatment because they don’t have health insurance” (2018). According to Haaz, rehabilitation centers “typically range from a few thousand dollars per month to more than tens of thousands of dollars for every thirty days. A stay at a ‘meat and potatoes’ facility . . . will cost a minimum of about $450 a day.” Haaz also remarks that “Unless a person is gainfully employed in a job with health benefits, the access to treatment is challenging at best” (Castaneda, 2018).
Castaneda, R. (2018). Millennials hit hard by opioids. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/family/articles/2018-03-12/millennials-hit-hard-by-opioids