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Substance Use Trends During the Summer Months

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Spike in Use. Who doesn't love summer?! Who isn't tired of pandemic restrictions?

Substance use normally increases during transition times such as the beginning of summer. Now, with the additional transition of reopening after the pandemic, there are extra risks with youth who have been cooped up for too long and want to blow off some extra steam. There is an understandable desire to make up for lost time, and for parents to feel badly for their kids after missing so much time with their classmates and friends.

Moreover, during the past 18 months, some parents, in addition to drinking more alcohol themselves, have relaxed their rules against underage drinking at home to placate and even bond with their children. Now, the genie may be out of the bottle. With summer, parental rules may loosen up even more with kids are feeling a profound sense of freedom. Who can blame our teens?

As curfews get pushed back and summertime temperatures rise, however, typically so do the number of adolescents who engage in substance use, emergency room visits and accident rates.Each year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health asks preteen and teenage students (ages 12-18) to report the year and month they first used a substance. The results of this survey reveal that summer is most definitely a time for experimentation. Key findings include:

  • First use of alcohol peaks in June and July (and also in December).

  • First use of marijuana, tobacco (vapes, cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco), and inhalers peak in June and July.

Additionally, adolescents who begin substance use in the summer are far more likely to continue throughout the year.

Higher Rate of Accidents. Not so coincidentally, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that during May, June, July, and August, nearly twice as many teens die in highway crashes compared to the rest of the year from drunk and drugged driving.Youth drinking also contributes to injuries and death from

summertime activities, such as boating and swimming. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that alcohol use is a factor in up to 70 percent of adult and adolescent deaths associated with water recreation, almost a quarter of emergency department visits for drowning, and about one in five reported boating deaths.


Alcohol, Ecstasy (MDMA or "Molly"), Cocaine and Amphetamines are especially risky in hot weather. These drugs can dehydrate users (Alcohol and Ecstasy), delay sensations of heat and exhauston(Amphetamines) and disrupt the ability to regulate body temperature (Cocaine), sparking a potentially fatal heart stroke. It is especially risky to mix alcohol with these drugs.

For more information on ecstasy and cocaine, read our Blog entitled "Popular Party Drugs and Summertime Risks". Many of these drugs are popular during summer music festivals which may be taking place again. July 4th weekend celebrations in popular spots such as Lake Tahoe lend themselves to alcohol and other drug use under sunny and hot conditions.

If you are leaving town but your child is not ...

  • Make sure your child understands that you forbid parties at your house. Be clear about the consequences for violation of this rule.

  • Reconsider allowing your child's friends at your home. An innocent gathering of a few friends can escalate into a raging bash in a matter of minutes with social media, in spite of your child's best intentions.

  • Have your child stay with a friend or relative, or have someone stay in your home. Alternatively, have an adult randomly check up on your children if they are home alone.

  • Alert your neighbors to your absence. Ask them to keep an eye out for suspicious activity or to randomly check up on your children.

  • Notify your local police department of your vacation plans. Doing so may result in patrols by your house and help ensure that you won't be liable under any social host ordinances in your area if there is a party at your home during your absence. Make sure your child knows that the police will be driving by.

  • Lock up or otherwise make inaccessible any alcohol, cannabis and prescription medications. This action should have been taken already but take extra care when you are away.

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