Teen Summertime Substance Abuse
Teen Drug use Increases in the Summer
Sun, fun, sand, pool, friends and hot weather add up to any teenager’s summer dream. More free time and less adult supervision can make summertime an exciting time for many young people and we want to encourage them to have fun during the school break. Unfortunately, for some teens summertime also means an increased likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse.
Are you sure you know what your teens are doing this summer? Multiple studies show that alcohol and drug use among adolescents significantly increases during the summer months. By the end of August, nearly one million teens will have tasted their first drink of alcohol. On an average summer day, approximately 4,500 youth will smoke cigarettes or marijuana for the first time.
Alcohol in particular is readily available to youths at home during the summer. Among 12–14-year-olds who reported that they drank alcohol in the past month, 95.1 percent reported that they got it for free the last time they drank and in many cases can find it at home.
While experimenting with drinking or smoking may not seem like a big deal to some, the reality is that substance use can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (such as unprotected sex), and aggressive or violent behavior. Research shows that young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20s and alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting both brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence.
With summer in full swing, now is the perfect time to speak with your teen about the negative effects of drug and alcohol use. While you can’t be with your teen 24/7, you can monitor what your teen is doing and find activities such as camps, swim teams, summer jobs, etc., to fill his or her idle time. Most importantly, you can drive home the message that drugs will only ruin their summer fun!
Bradford Health offers these tips to help keep your teen safe and drug-free in summertime:
- Set Summertime Rules: Make clear your rules regarding unsupervised time spent with friends, as well as your expectations surrounding drinking, smoking and other risky behaviors.
- Supervise: Be physically present when you can, and when you cannot, ask a friend, neighbor or relative to randomly check in. Research shows that unsupervised youth are three times more likely to use alcohol or other drugs.
- Monitor: Know with whom and where your child is at all times. Ask WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY daily. Randomly call and text your child to check in, and don’t be afraid to check up on your child by calling other parents. It truly takes a village.
- Stay Involved: Show your child you care by taking time out of your busy schedule to do something fun together.
Lastly, we know that sometimes you do all you can do as a parent and teens still experiment with illegal substances. Be on the lookout for changes in mood or behavior and for physical changes such as bloodshot eyes, poor hygiene, weight changes, unexplained bruises, flushed cheeks or fatigue. If your teen admits to using drugs or alcohol, it is important not to overreact. An overly negative response may cause a teen to shut down and prevent further discussion from taking place. Having a conversation about a teen’s experience with drugs and alcohol can help parents determine the severity of the issue, the proper channels for support and if professional help is needed.
If you or your teen needs our help, don’t hesitate to reach out. Bradford Health Services’ adolescent program offers comprehensive, individualized treatment for young people. The program is designed to help teenagers and their families find their way back from substance abuse and behavioral problems. Treatment is designed to address the special needs of adolescents, emphasizing individualized academic programs, therapy through recreation, and proven clinical approaches.
- SAMHSA’s 2002 to 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health