Summer, Teens and Drugs
Summer, free time and teens can equal a cocktail for trouble. It’s that fun and relaxing time of the year, when many unmonitored teens fly under the radar of their parents and experiment with alcohol and drugs.
The Dangers of Summer
During the summer months first time drug use among teens is at its highest. Survey results from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reveal four startling statistics that every parent should know:
- On an average summer day, about 11,000 youth will take their first drink of alcohol. Compare that to the academic year when each day approximately 8,000 teens take their first drink.
- On a summer day, approximately 4,500 youth will smoke cigarettes or marijuana for the first time. Compare that to the academic year when between 3,000 to 4,000 teens smoke cigarettes or marijuana for the first time.
- During the summer months first time use of drugs like marijuana, hallucinogens and inhalants are at an all time high.
- Teens who drink and smoke report doing it more during the months of June and July.
So as summer rolls out the welcome carpet, how can parents keep their teens safe? Below are six tips to keeping your teen’s summer safe and drug-free:
- Tip #1 Let them know you disapprove of drugs.
Studies support that parents who disapprove of drug use have teens who are less likely to use them. State your expectations early by having an open and candid conversation about the dangers of substance use with your teen.
- Tip #2 Trust your instincts.
If you suspect your teen is experimenting with or abusing drugs, trust your gut. Don’t second guess yourself. It should be no surprise that teens can lie, especially if they are using drugs and don’t want to get busted. Pay attention close attention to your teens words and actions. If things don’t add up then get to the bottom of what is going on.
- Tip #3 Watch for drug use warning signs.
Not only should you listen to your gut, but you should also watch for the warning signs associated with substance use. If your teen is showing any of the signs below, get professional help.
Signs of Teen Substance Abuse:
- Smell of alcohol on breath, or sudden, frequent use of breath mints
- Abrupt changes in mood or attitude
- Sudden decline in attendance or performance at school
- Loss of interest in school, sports, or other activities that used to be important
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Increase in secrecy and sneaking around
- Change of friends whom your child refuses to discuss
- Signs of tiredness, hopelessness, depression or suicidal thoughts
- Tip #4 Help your teen develop self-confidence and choose healthy relationships.
I once heard a mom tell a therapist about how drastically her teen had changed over the past several weeks. The therapist replied, “your teen did not change overnight, rather she lacked confidence and changed who she was listening to.” The teen stopped listening to her parents and started listening to her new friends. Consequently, these friends were leading her down the destructive path of drug use. Help your teen build confidence and choose friends who steer him/her down the right path. Self- confidence and positive self-esteem will play a big role in deterring drug use.
- Tip #5 Don’t ignore the obvious… Listen for the cry for help.
Approximately two-thirds of youth who use substances have an untreated mental condition like ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression, just to name a few. Rather than seeking therapeutic help many turn to self-medicating. Approximately two million teens between the ages of 12 and 17 need treatment for a substance abuse problem, but only about 150,000 get the help they need. Don’t let your teen be one of the hundreds of thousands who doesn’t get professional help. Early detection and intervention yields better outcomes.
- Tip #6 Don’t get caught up in a blame game.
If you find out your teen has a drug problem, don’t let guilt consume your thoughts and effect your behavior. Right now, you need an army of support to help your teen conquer the war on drugs. Feelings of blame and guilt will only cloud your judgment and keep you from engaging in the battle.
With summer in full swing, it is the perfect time to speak with your teen about the negative effects of substance use. While you can’t be with your teen 24/7, you can monitor what your teen is doing and find activities such as camps, swim teams, summer jobs, etc., to fill the idle time. Most importantly, you can hit home the message that drugs will only ruin his or her summer fun!
Image Courtesy of iStock