For most kids, the summer months are spent soaking up the sun.
But it is also the time when more kids experiment with drinking and drugs.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) released figures July 3rd showing that more adolescents try alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana in June and July than any other months.
Most months, the daily average of first time drinkers between the ages of 12 and 17 is about 5,000 to 8,000 kids. But in June and July the daily average for first time adolescent drinkers is 11,000.
There is a slight increase in cigarette smoking levels. Most days about 3,000 to 4,000 kids light up for the first time. In June and July that number raises to 5,000.
And when it comes to marijuana use, more than 4,500 youth start using it on an average day in June and July, compared to about 3,000 to 4,000 youths during the other months.
SAMSHA Administrator Pamela Hyde says the reason for the increase is simple. “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,”
“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.”
As I've revealed before in my past blogging, an empty house led to my drug use as a teenager. The opportunity was there for me to experiment with nobody at home. I had a big family and my brothers were off doing something while my parents worked.
It really is important to talk with your teens about the dangers of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.
Even if you have had the conversation before, you should have it frequently. There are numerous drug related news items in and around our community that can serve as the topic of discussion.
Your teens are constantly hit with imagery, messages, and peer pressure that being buzzed or high is cool. The partying lifestyle is glamorized in music, television shows, and movies. It's time parents offer some counter messaging. Parents need to show their kids examples of how drinking and drug use can have devastating consequences.
No community is immune to drugs. Many teens say getting marijuana is easier than getting alcohol.
I've spoken to medical marijuana pharmacy operators and they've told me that many kids go get their pot cards the day they turn 18, and "patients" tend to buy more marijuana during holiday periods.
Some of them end up distributing it to kids.
Back in January, Irvine police arrested a 19-year-old woman they witnessed purchase medical marijuana at a Costa Mesa dispensary, and sell to a 16-year-old student at an Irvine gas station.
As parents, we know we can't be around our kids all of the time. But if we can educate them about drugs, it will be easier to trust that they will make the right decisions.