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Updated: Jul 29, 2022

In recent times, more millennials are using and abusing substances because of varying underlying reasons. Young people are facing quite many obstacles, which may explain the rise in the addiction rate of millennials and substance use disorder.

Workshop session in Valletta offered by African Media on Media literacy to discuss substances abuse. Image: African Media

People from different races, ethnicities, ages and socioeconomic statuses can develop substance use disorder. However, in this present society and century statistics have shown that millennials' use is higher than every other population.

It is essential then, for everyone who is a millennial, a friend or family member of one to know what may incline them to use substances.

Millennials are facing immense hardship, including the world’s economic meltdown and inflation. This is causing more young people to feel stressed and have thoughts of uncertainties. When anyone feels stuck, unable to help themselves or unable to cope; the next thing they want to do is solve the problem and take away the unease. People in pain and psychological distress often seek ways to relieve themselves of anxiety and stress. When seeking ways to cope most often millennials are first introduced to psychoactive drugs than told to seek help professionally.

Once the substances are taken to relieve the symptoms millennials see this as a resolution and continue to use. After taking the substances for some time to resolve the distress, the continued use leads to addiction. This is one pathway to substance use.

Millennials could also take psychoactive drugs as learnt behaviour from a senior family member who used drugs in their vicinity to cope during stressful and anxiety-provoking life events when they were growing up. As Millennials face stressful and taxing situations where a young person sees their inability to cope or lack of resources to do so; they unconsciously turn to use what they have seen their parent or guardian use in similar situations.

The use of substances, moreover, does not provide a total fix because it is an unhealthy way to manage stress. It only numbs the user but doesn’t take away the stress or source of stress. This unhealthy link between substance use and coping mechanisms makes the millennial dependent on psychoactive drugs. This means that the young person can’t handle/manage stress on his/her own and would always turn to substances to help with it.

Research has shown that 9 in 10 millennials have said they experience physical or emotional symptoms because of stress. They also have feelings of depression, lack of interest, lack of energy, and lack of motivation. It is not surprising then if more millennials are trying to find a way to cope and manage their mental health.

The push to thrive as millennials in these times, where many things come to debate, is stifled. Millennials are on the search to understand themselves more and be fully grounded in their sense of self. The disparity between trying to understand who they are and what the society wants them to be pushes more millennials to seek acceptance, affirmation and a sense of belongingness.

This need creates a desire to do things that make them acceptable to the group they want to belong to. They also conform to their ideologies which sometimes include shared psychoactive trips as a means of inclusion.

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Article produced in the framework of the RadioLit project, managed by African Media Association and funded by the US Embassy Malta, through the JuliaTaft Refugee Fund.

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