First-time use of most substances peaks during summer months

First-time use of most substances peaks during summer months


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 1, 2018) – Today the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee issues a warning to parents and community leaders that first-time use of most substances peak during Summer months. On an average day in July, more than 11,000 youths are estimated to use alcohol for the first time. In other months, the daily average ranges from about 5,000-8,000 new users per day.

“The Prevention Alliance of Tennessee is a resource for our Tennessee communities not just during months in which school is in session, but all year long,” says Prevention Alliance of Tennessee Director Leah Festa. “It’s important that we get this message out to anyone who may be susceptible.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, our state saw 1,631 overdose deaths in 2016, had 13,034 nonfatal overdose outpatient visits, 7092 nonfatal overdose inpatient stays, and was issued 7,636,112 painkiller prescriptions.

Although initiation of substance use can occur at any time, findings indicate that first-time use of many substances such as alcohol, tobacco products and marijuana, peak during the month of July. This month includes periods when adolescents are on break from school and may have more idle time, fewer responsibilities, and less adult supervision.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data, an average of 10.3% of adolescents aged 12-17 drank alcohol for the first time in the past year. 6.3% used an illicit drug for the first time. On an average day during the past year, the following numbers of adolescents used the indicated substances for the first time:

  • 7,639 drank alcohol
  • 4,594 used an illicit drug
  • 4000 used marijuana
  • 3,701 smoked cigarettes
  • 2,151 used prescription pain relievers nonmedically
  • 1,460 used hallucinogens
  • 1,355 used inhalants
  • 550 used licit or illicit stimulants nonmedically
  • 482 used cocaine
  • 168 used methamphetamine
  • 99 used heroin

What can parents do?

  • Be a positive adult role model. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, a role model is a person who serves as an example by influencing others. For many children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers. Children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships, or when making difficult decisions.
  • Be aware of risk factors. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who have close relatives with certain diseases are more likely to develop those diseases themselves. Family history and exposure to substance misuse reflect inherited genetic susceptibility, shared environment and common behaviors. If you know a child’s friends are misusing substances, steer them toward a more positive environment.
  • Support your kids, and give them space to grow. Children get progressively more distant from their parents in order to gain their own independence and become their own person. According to the Child Development Institute, teens need space to discover themselves as separate beings from their families. It’s a valuable growing space that you need to respect. Make sure you respect boundaries and keep an open line of communication, but be clear about what behaviors are tolerated and what behaviors won’t be in your home. Now more than ever, they need to know you are a resource for them, but also that they will respect your zero tolerance substance misuse policy.
  • Be prepared. Teens are becoming curious, and your child may ask you about alcohol and other substances. Give honest answers. Don’t respond with anger or threats. Create a safe space for honesty. Your child needs to know you are informed on the topic, so try not to show shock, disbelief or hysteria when approached with questions about substance misuse. Remember: You’re the parent, and the authority figure of your home.
  • Use organic opportunities that present themselves. Try to let the conversation happen naturally (at the dinner table, in the car). Chances are if your child trusts you enough to bring it up, they value what you have to say. Take advantage of the opportunity. This also makes “the talk” less awkward.
  • Join your local anti-drug coalition. Join community efforts to combat underage alcohol and substance misuse and stay informed.

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