To the editor:
Summer is here again and in addition to the increase in outside activities, there is an increase in activities among our youth that we may not realize.
Although the start of substance use can occur at any time, findings from recent reports by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicate that first-time use of many substances (e.g., alcohol, tobacco products and marijuana) peaked during the months of June and July. These months include times when youth are on summer break from school and may have more free time, fewer responsibilities and less adult supervision.
This report indicates that on an average day in June, July or December, more than 11,000 youths used alcohol for the first time. This is nearly double the daily average range of 5,000 to 8,000 new users per day for the other months. On an average day in June or July, more than 5,000 youths smoked cigarettes for the first time while in other months, the daily average ranged from about 3,000 to 4,000 new users per day. During this same time, more than 4,800 youths used marijuana for the first time, whereas the daily average ranged from about 3,000 to 4,000 in other months. In addition to this June and July spike for marijuana, 38 percent of all those reporting first-time use occurred during the months of May through August.
Other substances in the report that have significant spikes during the summer months include inhalants, hallucinogens and cocaine. The daily average for first use of inhalants was at its highest in July, with about 1,800 youths using inhalants for the first time on an average day in July. The daily average for first use of hallucinogens also peaked in July, with more than 1,800 youths using hallucinogens for the first time on an average day in July. For cocaine, the largest peak reported was in January, but the second largest peak occurred in July, with more than 900 youth indicating first-time use of cocaine on an average day in July.
Some youth will experiment and stop, some will continue to use occasionally, and others will develop a dependency. Those who develop a dependency will likely move on to more dangerous drugs, causing significant harm to themselves and possibly others. It is difficult to know which teens will experiment and stop and which will develop serious problems. Youth at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those with a family history of substance use disorders, those who are depressed, who have low self-esteem and who feel like they do not fit in anywhere.
It is important to be involved with your children and be on the lookout for unusual behaviors/warning signs that there may be a substance use problem year round, but with the data linked to the increased use during the summer months it is especially important to be extra vigilant during this time.
PJ Corwin
Jay County Drug Prevention Coalition