Teens more likely to smoke and drink during summer months



    Students have been out of school now for several weeks. And, if you aren't keeping them busy many, may find their own form of entertainment. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released some pretty staggering statistics.

    You can't stop being a parent just because it's summer. Knowing where your teenagers are and what they're doing is your best shot at keeping them away from drugs and alcohol.

    More teenagers try marijuana, alcohol, or cigarettes for the first time in June and July than any other time of year.

    "When you think about your summer months and you really think about teenagers, they're old enough that many times they are left at home. Parents are working so there's a lot of free time and usually a lot less supervision," said Carol Williams, project coordinator for Shelby County's Drug Free Coalition.

    She says the temptation to experiment with cigarettes, and drugs is heightened without the constant supervision of parents and teachers. "If you have that social teen who loves to be around their friends, who love to be engaged, accepted, they're running on their emotions. So if someone says hey we've alcohol, do you want to try this cigarette, they're going to think about fitting in," said Williams.

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says an average of 5,000 teens start smoking each day during the summer. That's more than two thousand above the daily average.

    As for marijuana use, each day some 4,500 teenagers try it for the first time during the summer months. Slightly higher than the rest of the year. "We get kids that come in for substance abuse issues, whether that's alcohol, sometimes drugs, marijuana," said Brandi Horton, the residential program director at the Family Connection Center in Alabaster.

    The center works with families on crisis prevention and intervention programs.

    Horton says summer experimentation can lead to life-long addictions. "Substance abuse can lead to the anger issues, sometimes the acting out, making bad decisions that lead them to getting involved in juvenile court and getting them in trouble," she said.

    That's why Williams says it's important for parents to keep their children busy during the summer and constantly make them check in when they're out with friends. Lastly, keep the conversation going. "Not just once. They need to be talking with their youth. Even as young as ten years old all the way up through high school on a regular basis," said Williams.

    If you discover your child is experimenting with cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol this summer Williams warns not to be too lenient. Let them know you are disappointed and consequences will be enforced.

    Teenagers who do not have a lot of friends are at risk too; not just social ones. Williams says they may have more access inside the home if that's where they spend most of their time. That, paired with boredom, can lead to an addiction.

    Sometimes it's genetic. Does your family have a history of drug abuse? That is something to consider when looking at how prone your teenager is to using drugs.

    For more information on teen substance abuse visit the following websites:

    http://www.familyconnection-inc.org/

    www.shelbycountydrugfreecoalition.org

    http://teens.drugabuse.gov/

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