Gen Z And Addiction – Addiction Center

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Drug addiction can affect anyone, even the youngest among us. Much like Millennials, members of Generation Z (Gen Z), also called zoomers, run a higher risk of developing a substance abuse problem than previous age groups. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 23.6% of 12th graders used illicit drugs in 2015. Alcohol use is also a problem. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that over 4,200,000 people between the ages of 12 and 20 confessed to binge drinking.
Why is Gen Z at such a high risk for addiction? Many claim it’s the generation’s loneliness or obsession with social media. Others believe it is an age group problem. Nearly 90% of substance use disorders (SUDs) start during the teenage years. The Department of Justice reports that 1 in 6 teens has used prescription drugs to get high or alter their mood.
To make matters worse, only 6% of parents of teens say they have a child who’s abused medicine. Yet 10% of teens admit to misusing medications. Still, there is more than just 1 factor contributing to the vulnerability of teens and young adults. Below are some possible contributors to why Gen Z is turning to drugs and alcohol.
Generation Z is on track to be one of the unhealthiest generations on record due to their lack of access to affordable healthcare. For example, though 10% of zoomers in the US have severe major depression, only 40% received the care they needed. Within that 40%, only 27.3% received consistent treatment. Gen Z may be young, but they are not immune to diseases or disorders. As time goes on, the generation’s lack of access to medical treatments will negatively impact their lives. Conditions like SUDs may worsen their fates and limit their opportunity to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Gen Z are among the most depressed people in history of the United States. During their primitive years and adolescence they have faced mass shootings, political turmoil, and racial inequality. The TikTok-loving teens and young adults are stressed out and burned out, and their mental health is declining. Nearly 10% of American zoomers have been diagnosed with severe major depression. Within that age group, 60% did not receive any mental health treatment. Unfortunately, not addressing mental health conditions during adolescence extends into adulthood. The symptoms can worsen; combined with unhealthy coping which can interfere with the individual  having quality relationships and living a fulfilling life.
Declining mental health exposes the age group to riskier behaviors, like substance abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by senior year almost 70% of teens have tried alcohol. Within the same age group, 2 in 10 reported taking prescription medicine without a prescription. Research shows that substance abuse during adolescence is an indicator of adult addiction. The earlier someone starts using drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to continue taking the substance as they grow older.
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Social media sites like Instagram have long been connected with Millennials. But in the past few years, TikTok has become one of the most popular platforms worldwide. Its primary audience is none other than Gen Z. Viral trends run the TikTok world. Unfortunately, fads like the Benadryl challenge — where users misuse Diphenhydramine and post their experiences — are dangerous. In September 2020, a 15-year-old girl in Oklahoma died after taking part in the challenge and overdosing. According to a report by Harvard University, sharing experiences, dreams, or thoughts on social platforms triggers a portion of the brain associated with addiction. Social media has the power to chronically expose its users to viral videos showcasing influencers using drugs. These visuals have the  ability to trigger the brain’s reward center which is one possible reason why the Zoomers are at higher risk of  addiction.
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Zoomers have a long road ahead of them as they continue to evolve. They have faced many traumas at such an early age, sometimes with minimal to no support. These are only some of the factors that make Gen Z prone to chronic alcohol and drug use. Given that it is a newer generation, there’s still time and hope. However, they will face countless challenges, like health care reform, global warming, and addiction.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of addiction, there are treatment options available. Do not wait a second longer to receive the help you or your loved one deserves. Contact a treatment provider. They will answer your rehab-related questions and help you find options. Take a step toward recovery and contact a treatment provider today.
Last Edited: November 29, 2021
Suzette Gomez
Suzette Gomez earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Her desire to help others led her to a Pre-medical track with a focus on psychological and social development. After graduation, she pursued her passion for writing and began working as a Digital Content Writer at Recovery Worldwide LLC. With her background in medicine, Suzette uses both science and the arts to serve the public through her writing.
Clinically Reviewed: November 29, 2021
Dayna Smith-Slade
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
Dayna Smith-Slade is the President and CEO of Substance Abuse Solutions, L.L.C., a unique and innovative substance abuse consulting firm based in Springfield, Virginia. Her Small, Women, and Minority owned (SWaM) firm is committed to increasing drug and alcohol awareness in the community and decreasing the prevalence and debilitating impact of substance abuse. Dayna is a seasoned counselor with experience in a variety of therapeutic milieus. She is a dynamic public speaker that has been the featured trainer at national conferences and the featured guest on local television and radio talk shows.
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