Teenagers are more likely to smoke a cigarette or weed for the first time in either June or July than any other month, a new study found. More than 11,000 teens first use alcohol during the summer, U.S. News reported. Some 5,000 first smoked a cigarette and 4,500 experimented with marijuana.
The findings were drawn from interviews with more than 230,000 teens, between 2002 and 2012, in the administration's annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The report was released Tuesday by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
"More free time and less adult supervision can make summer months 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 Hyde said in the press 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."
The statistics should be a call to action for parents with teens who are out of school during the summer months, chief clinical officer at Phoenix House and policy expert Deni Carise told CBS News. While research both supports and challenges evidence that marijuana leads to stronger drugs, her work indicates that drug users have, at one point, also tried tobacco.
In order to stop teens from long-term drug abuse problems, "parents need to be cognizant that their children have more free time and increase activities during the summer months, as well as have more discussions about the harmful effects of drugs," CBS News reported. "They should also take care to hide prescription medications. Community programs that keep kids busy and offer alternative activities can also help."
Anti-drug advocates in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, are working to help kids stay drug-free, the Washington Examiner reported. Local jurisdictions within these regions are launching substance-abuse prevention programs.
Drug and alcohol prevention measures, however, demand more than awareness among teens, the Washington Examiner reported. "It's about access and looking at community attitudes as well," said Charles Dark, head of prevention programs in Wards 5 and 6. "In some communities it's not frowned upon to have youth that are underage drinking. You have to tell people, 'It's not the norm to smoke a joint with your child.' It's almost like deprogramming folks."
Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News.