New Data Brief: Millennial Generation Deaths Due to Drug Misuse up 400 percent since 1999; Deaths from Drugs and Suicide at All-time Highs

Millennial Generation Deaths Due to Drug Misuse up 400 percent since 1999; Deaths from Drugs and Suicide at All-time Highs

New report provides solutions for stopping deaths of despair among Millennials

(Washington, DC and Oakland, California) – Young adult deaths due to alcohol and drug misuse and suicide have increased precipitously among 18- to 34-year-olds during the last two decades, including a 400 percent increase in drug-related deaths, fueled in large part by the opioid crisis, according to a new report released today by Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust.
The report, which analyzed CDC data, found that between 1999 and 2017, opioid overdose death rates among Millennials increased by more than 500 percent. During the same period, synthetic opioid death rates increased by a staggering 6,000 percent.  The age group’s overall increase in drug deaths between 1999 and 2017 was 400 percent.
During the past decade (2007 – 2017), among people 18-34, alcohol-induced deaths increased by 69 percent, drug induced deaths increased by 108 percent and suicide deaths increased by 35 percent.
And, from 2016-2017, for 18- to 34-year-olds, drug-induced deaths increased 10 percent and suicide deaths were up 7 percent.  Alcohol-induced deaths for the year were down by 4 percent but as noted above are up sharply for the decade.
“The huge increases in the numbers of Millennials being lost to substance misuse and suicide is a national tragedy,” said John Auerbach, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “As a nation, we need to pay particular attention to the lived experience of the Millennial generation.  They are young parents, many have burdensome levels of education debt, they are more than one-third of today’s workforce and comprise the largest proportion of Americans serving in the military. Unfortunately, they also comprise the largest portion of people in prison.  They are grappling with economic, health and social challenges unique to their generation.  There is a critical need for targeted programs that address Millennials’ health, well-being and economic opportunity.”
The report focuses on five issues areas that must be considered in any efforts to stem the tide of deaths of despair among young adults, they are the need to: 1) prioritize childhood risk and protective factors and emphasize prevention in the developmental years in order to put today’s children on a pathway that will allow them to become thriving adults, 2) ensure access to mental health and substance misuse treatment services, 3) address health inequities, 4) recognize the multigenerational impact of alcohol and drug misuse and suicide and 5) improve substance use disorders treatment within the criminal justice system.
The Millennial generation, typically defined as people born between 1981 and 1996 are today 23 to 38 years of age.  Millennials continue to face a mix of challenges unique to their generation including the exploding costs of education and housing and beginning and growing their careers during the great recession and the opioid crisis.  Another critical element of the report’s focus on Millennials is the fact that many are parents of young children and their alcohol or drug misuse or poor mental health often has serious impacts on multiple generations of their family.
“There’s not a segment of the population that isn’t experiencing loneliness and despair,” said Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD, chief strategy officer, Well Being Trust. “We must address issues that matter– tackling the obstacles that prevent people from having a healthy and fulfilling life and upholding our responsibility to improve the health and well-being of our communities. No place is this more apparent than with Millennials—those who have and are about to have families of their own. If we fail Millennials, we’re failing the next generation and we’ll not break this cycle of despair.”
According to the report, new and specific interventions aimed at reducing these deaths of despair amongst young adults are critically needed, notably including these 10:

  1. Ensuring behavioral healthcare, including screenings, are a routine part of primary care and that everyone has access to such care. Care must be culturally competent.
  2. Barriers to treatment like the lack of providers in rural areas or the need for more residential treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum women should be addressed by growing the Federal Behavioral Workforce Education Program, greater use of telemedicine and increasing student loan repayment programs for practitioners working in underserved areas.
  3. Behavioral health screening and referral services should be readily available at all colleges, universities, technical training facilities and reproductive health clinics.
  4. Health insurance and Medicaid coverage for medication-based treatments for substance misuse disorders should be increased.
  5. Wider implementation of suicide prevention programs, such as the Zero Suicide Initiative, is needed throughout the healthcare system. All hospitals should ensure that any patient in crisis is connected with behavioral health services in a timely manner.
  6. States and localities should use pricing strategies to limit the consumption of alcohol by adolescents and young adults.
  7. Federal and state governments should prioritize the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act to support prevention services for families in crisis and to reduce foster care placements.
  8. Hospitals and birthing centers should screen new mothers for substance misuse disorders at delivery.
  9. Drug and mental health courts should be created in all states and federal districts. When appropriate, people with substance misuse disorders should receive mandatory treatment as part of their incarceration and be connected to in-community treatment services upon their release.
  10. Transition programs to assist veterans returning to civilian life should be readily available.

The TFAH/WBT Pain in the Nation publication series was launched in 2017 and examines substance misuse and suicide trends and evidence-based policies and programs in an effort to promote a comprehensive approach to solving the nation’s deaths of despair crisis.  The report series is designed to focus attention on the need for national resilience strategy.

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Trust for America’s Health is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes optimal health for every person and community and makes the prevention of illness and injury a national priority. Twitter: @healthyamerica1
Well Being Trust is a national foundation dedicated to advancing the mental, social, and spiritual health of the nation. Created to include participation from organizations across sectors and perspectives, Well Being Trust is committed to innovating and addressing the most critical mental health challenges facing America, and to transforming individual and community well-being. Twitter: @WellBeingTrust