Summer is a Risky Time for Youth Substance Use

More teens start drinking and smoking cigarettes and marijuana in June and July than in any other month, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in a report entitled, “Monthly Variation in Substance Use Initiation among Adolescents.” 

The report states that on an average day in June and July, more than 11,000 teens ages 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 youth smoke cigarettes for the first time, as opposed to the daily average of about 3,000 to 4,000 during the rest of the year. The same pattern holds true 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 youth during the other months.

 “More free time and less adult supervision can make summertime an exciting time for many young people, but it can also increase the likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “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.”

With less structure and adult supervision, summertime is rife with opportunities for teens to fall into a bad crowd, experiment with drugs or alcohol, or engage in other forms of high-risk behaviors.  For working parents, it can be challenging to monitor youth during the day-time hours. You can help keep your teen safe and drug free with these summertime tips:

• 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: This can be especially challenging for parents of high school students. However, be physically present when you can, and when you cannot, try asking 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. Randomly call and text your child to check in, and don’t be afraid to check up on your child by calling other parents. Communicate regularly with the parents of your child’s friends.

• Stay Involved: Show your child you care by taking time out of your busy schedule to do something fun together. Provide some structure by helping them find a summer job, volunteer work, or other supervised activity.

Regardless of the season, it is always a good time to talk with your teen about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Open (or maintain) the lines of communication and be your child’s trusted source of information. Remember, silence isn’t golden—it’s permission! For more information on how to encourage drug-free behavior and guide good choices, visit our website at

Source: SAMHSA


July Fast Facts


Underage alcohol use isn’t limited to frat houses and football games.  In fact, the age at which kids start experimenting with alcohol is younger than ever.  By the time they reach the 8th grade, 12 percent of adolescents have had at least one drink.           (SAMHSA)


  FACT #2

As children mature, it is natural for them to assert their independence, seek new challenges, and try taking risks. Underage drinking is a risk that attracts many developing adolescents and teens. Many want to try alcohol, but often do not fully recognize its effects on their health and behavior. Peer pressure, the desire for increased independence and stress are other reasons why young people begin drinking or using other drugs.  (NIDA)



One reason kids may experiment with drugs is simply that they are bored. While you don’t want to enroll children in every single activity, you should encourage them to find something they are interested in (e.g., sports, music, volunteer work, and faith-based activities) and to participate in it.   (DEA)



 FACT #4

Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than youth their age who do not drink.   (NIDA) 

June Fast Facts


Parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years, and leads to subsequent drinking problems later in life. (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)  



There is a 40% increase in first-time youth marijuana use during June and July     compared to the rest of the year. On an average day in June or July, more than 4,800  youths try marijuana for the first time.  (SAMHSA)



Parents are the most powerful influence on their kids when it comes to drugs. Two-thirds of youth ages 13-17 say losing their parents’ respect is one of the main reasons they don’t smoke marijuana or use other drugs. (SAMHSA)



Young people drink less often than adults, but when they do drink, they consume more than adults. On average, young people have about 5 drinks on a single occasion, which is considered binge drinking. (NIAAA)

Serving Alcohol to Teens: Unsafe, Illegal, and Irresponsible

The legal drinking age protects kids. Did you know that since laws established 21 as the minimum drinking age, the likelihood that a 15-20 year old driver will be involved in a fatal car crash has dropped by more than half?

The “We Don’t Serve Teens” program, a national program targeting underage drinking, has developed a Website,, summarizing the available information on teen drinking and the legal drinking age. The site reveals that over the two decades following adoption of the legal drinking age of 21, drinking by high school seniors has dropped substantially. “This is important because teens that drink harm themselves and others,” says Mary Engle of the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. “Our kids are a precious resource, and the data shows that the legal drinking age of 21 is a law that protects them.” She points to a U.S. Surgeon General report showing that about 5,000 kids under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related injury, including crashes, homicides and suicides.

Unfortunately, too many teens still say alcohol is easy to get, and a U.S. government survey shows that most of those who drink alcohol do not pay for it. Instead, they get it from older friends, from family members, at parties, or they take it from home without permission. Further, once kids start drinking, most engage in binge drinking, meaning that they have five or more drinks in a short time span with the goal of getting drunk. “This is why the ‘We Don’t Serve Teens’ program targets easy teen access to alcohol. The message is, don’t provide alcohol to teens because it is unsafe, illegal, and irresponsible.” Engle continues. “And most adults agree about this; in fact, only 9 percent of American adults think that it is okay for adults to provide alcohol to underage youth.”

The site provides parents with things to do and say to reduce teen access to alcohol. It recommends that parents keep track of alcohol at home and speak up when underage drinking is discussed. “Be frank and tell other parents that you don’t want them serving alcohol to your teen or condoning teen drinking,” says Engle. “And talk to adults who host teen parties. Let them know that it is not okay to serve alcohol to someone else’s teen.”

Most teens that drink get alcohol from social sources, like parties and older friends. Teen drinking is linked to injury and risky behavior. We can reduce underage drinking by stopping easy access to alcohol.

Talking to your kids about the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs is a first step towards the development of healthy lifestyle patterns. For those parents looking for ways to start the conversation with their child about drugs and alcohol, a number of great free resources are available on our website at


Source: FTC