Baby boomers reportedly used more marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens in their 20s than millennials did at a similar age, but the older generation abused painkillers at a much lower rate.
DrugAbuse.com analyzed federal household surveys dating back to the 1970s, tracking the age and rate of recreational drug users across several generations. It then charted the results for 10 drugs:
Painkiller abuse is a continuing public health problem in the US. The number of deaths due to prescription painkiller overdoses rose from about 4,000 in 1999 to more than 16,200 in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These deaths have been spread across all age groups, but DrugAbuse.com's analysis suggests that millennials could be at a greater risk than other generations.
The charts also show higher heroin use among millennials. Heroin has also become a bigger public health problem in the past few years: heroin overdose deaths increased from about 4,400 in 2011 to more than 8,200 in 2013, according to the CDC.
The rise of heroin overdose deaths could be related to law enforcement cracking down on prescription painkiller abuse and pushing painkiller users to heroin, which, like painkillers, is an opioid. A 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that addicted painkiller users resort to the more dangerous heroin if their painkiller supply is cut off.