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Summer Brings Increased Risk of Teen Drug Use

Jun 24, 2008

The start of summer brings an increased risk of first-time adolescent drug and alcohol use, as well as a critical need for families to seek help for young people already in the grip of substance abuse, according to the professional staff at Princeton House Behavioral Health.

Studies by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health have demonstrated that more teens try marijuana for the first time in June and July than any other time of year. First time use of alcohol also increases during the lazy days of summer, when more teens are bored or unsupervised.

"Summer can be a risky time for teens when it comes to drug and alcohol use, and parents need to be especially vigilant," said Dr. George Wilson, staff psychiatrist of Princeton House Behavioral Health and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry of Princeton HealthCare System. "But summer can also be a season of hope for adolescents already struggling with addiction by providing them a fresh chance to seek treatment."

Parents can help discourage first-time drug and alcohol use by keeping children involved with positive activities during the summer, said Dr. Wilson. These can include playing sports or attending sporting events, enrolling in recreational programs, volunteering for local community organizations, taking day trips to area attractions such as zoos or museums, or learning a new skill, like playing a musical instrument.

Dr. Wilson also noted that the examples set by parents are a child's most powerful influence, cautioning parents to be aware of their own alcohol consumption, which increases for many adults in summer.

Experts also advise parents to monitor their teen's time during the summer, even when they can't be home with them. Ways to do that can include staying engaged through regular e-mails, text messages and phone calls, as well as enlisting support of other adults in the neighborhood who are home and can help to monitor your children.

Other parents face the more urgent challenge of finding help for adolescents who are already following the dangerous road of substance abuse. This situation requires more active steps for intervention and professional help. The process can start with a trip to the family doctor who can help refer the adolescent to an appropriate treatment program, such as traditional outpatient counseling or more intensive treatment.

Experts at Princeton House note that summer is an ideal time to seek help, as it enables teens to participate in whatever form of treatment is needed, including residential treatment, without having to explain or make up for a missed school days or school work.

Dr. Wilson noted that Princeton House Behavioral Health offers a variety of programs for children and adolescents who need psychiatric or addictions help, including a residential level of substance abuse treatment for adolescents, and an array of intensive day treatment programs on an outpatient basis.

"Serious child and adolescent problems don't take a summer break," said Dr. Wilson. "If you're a parent and you're worried for your child, the best time to seek help is now."