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Summer Substance Use Among Youth

Youth substance misuse is a terrifying prospect for any parent. You can’t keep tabs on your child 24/7, and the risk of them deciding to try drugs or alcohol is always present. However, research shows that the most common time for youth to try a new substance is during the summer.

What the Research Shows

A study from researchers at the NYU School of Medicine examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) gathered between 2011 and 2017. The data was from nearly 395,000 people age 12 and older who answered questions electronically about drug use. The key findings suggest summertime is particularly dangerous for the initiation of substance abuse. These are the percentage of first-time usages during the summer months:

  • 34% for LSD
  • 30% for marijuana
  • 30% for ecstasy
  • 28% for cocaine

Overall, about a third of first-time use of drugs occurs during summer, making it a crucial time to monitor youth for signs of substance misuse.

Factors in Summer Substance Misuse

What makes summer such a common time for young adults to experiment with drugs and alcohol? These are three of the top factors that can lead to youth drug misuse over summer.

1. Free Time

The simplest explanation is that kids have more free time and less supervision during the summer. Youth are becoming more independent, and they tend to spend more time unsupervised as they get older.

2. Social Pressure

For many youth, summer is all about spending time with friends. This is usually a natural and healthy thing to do, but if a teen is hanging out with people who are doing drugs and drinking, they may feel pressured to join.

3. Events and Availability

Summers are packed full of events like festivals and concerts, where strangers may be more willing to share drugs or alcohol. When there is a substance around and easy to obtain, teens are more likely to give in to the temptation of a new experience.

Continued Substance Misuse During the Summer

It’s not just experimentation that parents have to worry about. If a young person has begun misusing a substance during the school year, summer presents the opportunity to increase the frequency or intensity of the abuse. Without regular schoolwork and extracurriculars to worry about, summertime teen substance misuse can increase significantly.

Preventing Summertime Substance Misuse in Youth

As a parent, you can do a few things to help keep your son or daughter drug-free during the summer. Keep these actions in mind as warmer weather approaches:

  • Supervise: Whenever possible, try to make sure you or another responsible adult are present or checking in on teens as they engage in summer fun.
  • Monitor: When you can’t be physically present, know where your young person is and who they’re with at all times. Don’t be afraid to call or text your child, or even check in with other parents to make sure your teen is where they say they are.
  • Set expectations: Clarify your rules and expectations about behavior, and talk to your child about the consequences of drinking or doing drugs.

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