Report: Youth Start Using Drugs & Booze in the Summer

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released two reports regarding substance abuse.

The first report indicates that youths between the ages of 12 and 17 are far more likely to start using most substances during the summer than during other parts of the year. The second report of data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) system shows that the rate of increase in drug-related emergency department (ED) visits slowed from an average annual rate of 18.2 percent in the years between 2005 and 2008, to an average annual rate of 6.1 percent in the years 2009 and 2010.

The first study found that, on an average day in June and July, more than 11,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 use alcohol for the first time – December is the only other month with comparable levels. Throughout the rest of the year the daily average for first-time alcohol use ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 adolescents.

Similarly in June and July, an average of 5,000 youths smoke cigarettes for the first time, as opposed to the daily average of about 3,000 to 4,000 adolescents during the rest of the year.  The same pattern holds true to a large degree for first time use of cigars and smokeless tobacco among youth.

In terms of first-time use of marijuana, more than 4,500 youth start using it on an average day in June and July, as opposed to about 3,000 to 4,000 youths during the other months.

“More free time and less adult supervision can make the summertime an exciting time for many young people, but it can also increase the likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.  “That is why it is critically important to take every opportunity we can throughout the year to talk to our young people about the real risks of substance abuse and effective measures for avoiding it, so they will be informed and capable of making the right decisions on their own.”

SAMHSA works closely with federal and state partners, including the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, on effective prevention programs especially tailored for the summertime season.  

The report on first-time use by youth of substances by month also examined the abuse of other substances such as inhalants, cocaine, hallucinogens and the non-medical use of prescription medication.  First-time hallucinogen use also peaked during June and July, and inhalant initiation peaked in July, but the summer months did not show higher rates of first-time use of cocaine or non-medical prescription drug use.

SAMHSA also released a new related report today from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) that measures one of the impacts of drug use on the health care system.  

There were 4.0 million drug-related ED visits made by patients aged 21 or older in 2010. 1.9 million, 47.2 percent, involved drug misuse or abuse. Cocaine was found to be the most commonly involved illicit drug among this age group (210.7 visits per 100,000 population), followed by marijuana (151.0 visits per 100,000 population), heroin (93.0 visits per 100,000 population), and amphetamines/methamphetamines (54.9 visits per 100,000 population). For ED visits made by patients aged 20 or younger, 45.3 percent involved drug misuse or abuse. Alcohol was the most commonly involved illicit drug for this age group (215.4 visits per 100,000 population), followed by marijuana (143.9 visits per 100,000 population).

Read the DAWN report.

Read the NSDUH report.

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