I wasn’t at all surprised to read the SAMHSA data based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The research showed that more teens tried drugs for the first time in June and July than at any other point in the year. Each day during these months, more than 11,000 teens on average tried alcohol, more than 5,000 tried cigarettes, and more than 4,500 tried marijuana—each day! Thus far, we are not just focused on these three drugs, but I want to stress that the rates of initiation were highest in the summer for five of the nine drugs studied. The number of teens who tried inhalants and hallucinogens also spiked during this time of year. This indicates that June and July are problematic months for experimentation, and not just with alcohol, cigarettes, and pot.
So, what can we do to protect our kids? Of course, parents are the first line of defense. Knowing that children are more likely to try drugs during the summer than in any other season, moms and dads should add a healthy amount of structure to their kids’ days. Don’t just let teens sit in front of the TV all day while you’re at work. Sign them up for sports teams, arts camps, music lessons, or other activities that will keep them busy. Also, lock your medicine cabinets. Prescription drug abuse is now a widespread problem, especially among adolescents, and we have seen kids in treatment for problems with heroin who say they would have never tried it if they hadn’t gotten addicted to prescription painkillers first. The transition from prescription opiates to heroin can be dangerously quick, often happening over just six months as teens become dependent on expensive painkillers and realize that heroin is much cheaper.
September is getting closer and I am sure you are thinking , How do we get them focused and has the problem become so severe that you don’t know what to do?
Above all, we must remember that drugs—whether alcohol, marijuana, or other substances—are especially harmful to the still developing brain. We know that if a person has not developed a substance abuse problem by the age of 21, he or she is still susceptible in today’s drug culture. For this reason, we shouldn’t let it slide when adolescents “test the waters” with drugs.
This summer for me “as an interventionist ” my task has been to educate parents and define strategies to keep them sane through the summer, but also to figure out the help they need in august to get a plan of action in place.
Right now is the time to be addressing expectations and parents need help. Its difficult to shift from summer flexibility to allowing a new family dynamic into responsibility and setting boundaries and guidelines .
Help is here
Linda Lane Devlin