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Summertime Substance Abuse in Teens

Posted: September 28, 2020 by in Hope Recovery Addiction Center

Substance abuse can affect anyone anywhere. Of all the times of the year, the summer months pose the greatest threat to the likelihood of drug abuse in teenagers. The increased socializing, sunshine and carefree season can lead to experimentation with–or addiction to–a variety of substances. 

In addition, substance dependency can effect mood, behavior, physical appearance, and mental faculties. Young peoples’ brains are still in the developmental form and alcohol and drugs can have a damaging effect on their physiological growth. 

If you are concerned that your child might be already addicted, or heading down the wrong path, please reach out to us at 918-779-0011. Treatment programs can offer a safe, effective way to corral substance use before it gets out of control. 


Are you concerned about your teen abusing substances? Continue reading below for more information about how summer can influence your child into drinking. 

Marijuana Addiction and the Best Treatment

The Lure of Summer Substance Abuse

Why is drug abuse in teenagers higher in the summer?

It comes down to opportunity. Summer is when young people generally have their most recreational time and may want to reward themselves for getting through another school year. In general, parents do not enforce the same rules during the summer as they do during the school year. Because kids have later curfews, while concerts, social gatherings, and opportunities to party abound. Also, with less responsibility, less supervision, combined with a young adult’s natural curiosity, this all can be a hazardous concoction. 

Often, it can be difficult for parents to monitor their child’s every move, so there may be no way of telling what sort of substances they expose themselves to. 

Teen Substance Abuse Stats

Teenagers and substance abuse can be a volatile combination, and the risks are ramped up during the summer months. Studies have examined the most likely substances to be abused during the mid-year months. 

Marijuana and Cigarettes

The first time use for marijuana and cigarettes peaks in the summer months, specifically June and July. Students between the ages of 12 and 14 record when they first took a new substance such as marijuana, cigarettes, or other intoxicants. The results show that during the months of June and July: 

  • More than 5,000 young people smoke cigarettes for the first time, compare with averages of about 3,000 to 4,000 new users in other months. 
  • More than 4,800 young people smoke marijuana for the first time, compare with a daily average of about 3,000 to 4,000 in other months. 

Another kid-centered study was conducted by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine. “30 percent of marijuana use was found to begin in summer months”. Another study backed up this claim. This study was called, “Summer as a Risk Factor for Drug Initiation.” According to the study, “30.4 percent of cannabis use was initiated in summer compared with other seasons”. Thus, the statistics are viable and show that marijuana and cigarettes were used significantly higher during the summer months.

LSD, Hallucinogens, and Ecstasy

The study that was conducted with the National Survey on Drug Use and Health listed above also has sections for hallucinogens. According to WebMD, “more than 1,500 youths used hallucinogens for the first time, compared with averages of about 1,100 to 1,400 per day in other months”.  

The study, “Summer as a Risk Factor for Drug Initiation” also concluded that:

  • 34% of LSD use was initiated in summer compared with other seasons
  • 29.8% of ecstasy use was initiated in summer compared with other seasons. 

 Physical Signs of Substance Abuse 

Some of this information might be difficult to process. You don’t want to be an overbearing parent but you also want to make sure your child is safe.

At the same time, there can be some clear signs that your child may be using a substance, including abrupt changes in behavior. 

Since kids using drugs during the summer is so commonplace, there are some regular signifies that something might be wrong. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, be aware of your child:

  • Frequently Lacks Energy
  • Has bloodshot eyes or a flushed face
  • Has difficulty focusing on tasks or conversations. 
  • Exhibits dilated pupils
  • Turns up with unexplained burns or marks, possibly pertaining to smoking substances 
  • Experiences chronic nosebleeds

Fortunately, drug abuse in teenagers can be recognized in these ways and addressed. The sooner you uncover a potential problem, the sooner you can get your child the help they need.

Also, be sure to note your child’s overall physical appearance. Drug abuse takes a toll on the body and sometimes comes with neglectful hygiene habits. Has your son or daughter stopped combing their hair? Have they stopped showering or brushing their teeth? Have they possibly lost a significant amount of weight?

However, if multiple of these red flags are evident, it may be time to have a talk. Try to express your concern as non-judgmentally as possible and have a face-to-face conversation with them. Avoid doing it over the phone or through text. Then try your best to listen. They may even be frightened by their experience and not know where to turn. This is where you can step in and be that helping hand. 

Behavioral Signs of Substance Abuse

Easily-abused substances can dramatically change a person’s behavior. IN the case of kids using drugs during the summer, they might start acting secretive or secluding themselves. Their everyday interactions with you or the family may be noticeably different. 

For instance, warning signs could include: 

  • Wanting to be alone an excessive amount of time
  • Refusing to allow anyone in their room or area of the house 
  • Not communicating about where they are 
  • Not communicating about who they’re with
  • Frequently breaking curfews with no concrete reasons.
  • Abrupt changes in the way they interact with specific family members 

While it’s important to remember that sometimes kids act strangely for no reason at all, there may be a legitimate reason behind it. Behavioral changes may also include suddenly needing money or excessive spending on new purchases. However, observe how they’re handling their money or how often they are asking for a handout. Be aware of how much you have in your wallet or on your bedroom dresser, or other places where somebody might easily take money.

Although it tends to be in more extreme addiction cases, household items of value may start disappearing. 

Problems with School

When August rolls around, and school starts back up, be aware of how your child responds. Use the previous school year as a basis for how your child is likely to perform. Drug abuse in teenagers can change their normal school behavior.

For example, take note during the schoolyear if you find your child is:

  • Frequently forgetting homework
  • Showing complete disinterested in school 
  • Backing out of school-based or extracurricular activities
  • Missing classes or skipping
  • Showing a drop in their grades 

If your teenager begins behaving like this, there is the potential that substance abuse is involved. As a parent or guardian, you may be the only authority figure capable of stepping in. 

In short, be alert to who your child is hanging out with. If your son or daughter changes friends at the beginning of the school year, that is not uncommon. Still, if they are suddenly interested in socializing with adults, or have become secretive about who they are spending time with, it could pose a concern. 

Effects of Addiction on Teenagers 

It is dangerous when addiction to any substance begins at a young age. Teenagers’ brains are still developing, and the impact of drugs or alcohol can significantly impact their development. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that “one of the brain areas still maturing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that allows people to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep emotions and desires under control. This critical part of a teen’s brain is still a work in progress that puts them at increased risk for trying drugs or continuing to take them. Introducing drugs during this period of development may cause brain changes that have profound and long-lasting consequences”. 

It is essential for you as the parent to be aware of the warning signs of substance abuse. Being knowledgeable about the dangers and alerting the warning signs is crucial in heading off a potential substance abuse problem. 

How you can Help

As a parent, you may be the best possible obstruction between your child and substance addiction. Psychologist and counselor Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker have some advice on how you can be more aware of the possibility of your kids using drugs during the summer.

The first step is to admit that your child could choose to use a drug or drink alcohol. Even if you think ‘No, not my kid,’ acknowledge that it’s possible, given the general statistics. Talk to your children with sincere concern and show interest in their daily summer activities.

Dr. Hartwell suggests to “talk about how they can resist the peer pressure that is an inevitable part of teen partying. Studies show that when approached calmly and reasonably about alcohol use and abuse, teens do take in what we’re trying to tell them”. If you immediately approach a young person with accusations and threats, you could potentially worsen the situation. 

Be Self-Aware and Proactive 

Unfortunately, teenagers and substance abuse can stem from parents’ actions and the environment they provide. Take an honest look over your behavior surrounding drinking and smoking.

Be transparent with your children and talk about your own mistakes misusing substances. Talk with them about what you have learned from those choices. Focus on the environment you are providing for your children. If you are supplying your underage child with alcohol at home, it very quickly opens the door to a potential abuse problem. 

Giving your kids controlled substances in the home in the hope of “educating” them about drugs can also be a slippery slope.

Remember that if you have a problem with alcohol or substances, try to address your care first. Not having your use under control almost assures you will not be able to corral addiction in your children. 

One of the most positive effects you can have on a child is showing genuine interest in their lives.  Offer to help them get involved in sports or volunteer work. Ask them how they would like to spend their day or week and make it a regular family conversation.

If you’ve been able to verify your child is abusing substances, or if you’re not sure, please reach out to us. We can nip drug abuse in the bud with proactive decisions and a straightforward approach. We are happy to help you navigate these problematic areas. 

Written by Julia Bashaw

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