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What’s Your Generation’s Drug of Choice? Let’s Find Out…

Every generation has its trends. From hairstyles, to music, and yes, even drugs. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) has been studying the drug habits of Americans for decades. Their survey results reveal patterns of drug use among the most recent generations. Those age parameters are:

  • Baby Boomers – born 1943-1962
  • Generation X – born 1963-1982
  • Millennials – born 1983-2002

The stats provide a comparison based on how many individuals used each substance over the past year. The NSDUH results give us a glimpse into each generation’s overall drug preferences, as well as the age at which each generation used various substances the most (their peak).

And the survey says…

Baby Boomers

  • Alcohol: Just like the other two generations, alcohol tops the charts as the most commonly used substance. At the highest point of use, over 80 percent of Boomers used alcohol. Interestingly, this generation started their alcohol use at a younger age. It was most frequently consumed by Baby Boomers at the tender age of 19.
  • Marijuana: This generation lived through the 60’s, so it’s no surprise marijuana was second on the list. It’s also no shocker that the Boomers’ use of marijuana is higher than the other two generations. Use peaked between the ages of 18-20, with around 50 percent of Boomers using marijuana in the past year.
  • Stimulants: At age 22, Baby Boomers’ use of stimulants peaked. Their frequency of stimulant use at that time tops the generational charts at over 12 percent (nearly triple that of Gen X and Millennials). To their credit, this generation lived through a post-World War II trend when amphetamines were frequently prescribed as a treatment for depression.
  • Sedatives: At their peak use, around age 20, almost 10 percent of all Boomers abused sedatives. That’s roughly three times the use of sedatives by Gen Xers and ten times that of Millennials, (who apparently haven’t been tempted much by this category of drugs).

Generation X

  • Alcohol: The next generation followed in the footsteps of their parents when it comes to alcohol use. Over 80 percent of Generation X used alcohol at their peak. However, this peak didn’t come until age 22.
  • Marijuana: Pot takes second place for this generation as well. Gen Xers also saw their peak use of marijuana at age 18-20. But use was significantly less than their predecessors, at about 30 percent.
  • Psychotherapeutics: Ranking third among Generation X use are psychotherapeutic drugs (medications used to treat mental disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and manic-depressive disorders). This use peaked around age 20, with about 10 percent of Gen Xers using these drugs.


  • Alcohol: Alcohol hasn’t lost its appeal over the decades. Millennials also saw a peak of 80 percent alcohol use at age 22, making it the top drug choice for this generation.
  • Marijuana: As with the previous two generations, marijuana still runs a strong second among Millennials. Use also peaked at age 18-20, but a bit higher than the previous generation, at around 35 percent.
  • Painkillers: Looking at the data, it’s clear that Millennials have a strong preference for painkillers. Prescription painkiller abuse is more common among Millennials than any previous generation. Their peak use shows over 12 percent of Millennials aged 19-20 abused painkillers, compared to fewer than eight percent of Boomers and Gen Xers. As the opioid epidemic rages on, this is a trend that could spell disaster for thousands of Millennials.




Image Source: iStock

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