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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Medicated Millennials

Published April 6, 2016 1:13 PM by ADVANCE for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine

By Tamer Abouras


In spite of the fact that professional writing has increasingly moved to a digital medium, there is nonetheless an almost endless amount of ink (figuratively speaking) spent describing the “millennial” generation.


Whether it’s their effect on the workforce, the burden of student debt that they carry or dismissive (and wrong) characterizations of the whole lot of them as lazy, overgrown children, it’s currently quite a hot topic to discuss millennials and their generational attributes — especially among people who are not millennials themselves.


One potentially under discussed aspect of millennial life is the casting of it as a kind of “medicated generation,” who came of age in the 1990s and early 2000s, when pharmaceuticals took hold like never before with the answers to many of our most common ailments. Intervention, in general, was exceedingly common, to the point that a typical elementary school rite of passage seemed to be being diagnosed with asthma, some form of attention deficit disorder and requiring braces.

SEE ALSO: Asthma Inhalers Get Smart

Having personally been through two of those three processes, I can’t tell you if I was made worse or better as a result — straight teeth notwithstanding — but  I do know I have been virtually asymptomatic with regard to asthma for about a decade, leading me to wonder if I’d ever had the condition at all. And while I am only an editor with no particular medical expertise, I can take some solace in the notion that my skepticism might have been well-founded, now that it’s been shared by some leading respiratory doctors.


In Archives of Disease in Childhood, Professor Andrew Bush and Dr. Louise Fleming of Imperial College and Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust argue that asthma overdiagnosis has led to an environment where inhalers have “almost become a fashion accessory."


"Inhaled corticosteroids, when properly used, dramatically improve quality of life and reduce the risk of asthma attacks and mortality," they wrote. "There is also evidence that systemic absorption of (inhaled corticosteroids) depends not just on the prescribed dose, but is greater if the dose is inappropriately high for the degree of airway inflammation. … Is there any other chronic disease in the world in which children are committed to potentially hazardous, long-term therapy without every effort being made objectively to document the diagnosis?"


Highlighting the fact that many children may simply outgrow their asthma symptoms, the experts argued that more substantive testing and accurate diagnosis would likely lead to better health outcomes for the children who may or may not have had asthma to begin with.


ADVANCE Opinion Poll: Would you choose to be an RT again?


The bottom line is that, for as quick as millennials may seem to reach for a magic bullet sort of solution to some of their woes, the over prescription of inhalers and asthma medication is a perfect example of why.


Many of us grew up being told that there were answers in pill form capable of solving all of our medical problems. Years later, it turns out that those answers may have been limited to the number of questions our doctors chose to ask.

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