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Summertime is 'High' Time for U.S. Teens

June and July see more first-time teen tokers 


"In the good-old summertime," more American teens try marijuana for the first time than at any other time of year, according to a report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The report, "Seasonality of Youth's First-Time Use of Marijuana, Cigarettes or Alcohol," from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a 40 percent increase in first-time youth marijuana use during June and July, compared to the rest of the year. Each day in June and July an average of 6,300 youths try marijuana for the first time. The number of new underage drinkers and cigarette smokers also jumps during the summer months.

"Youth marijuana use has declined by 11 percent over the past two years. Despite the good news, the battle of reducing teen drug use is not yet over," said John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "Kids may equate summer with freedom, but for parents, it's when they need to be even more involved in their teens' lives. As soon as they pack up their locker for the year and step out of school, kids are much more likely to try marijuana. By keeping teens busy, knowing who they're with and making sure they're supervised, parents can help prevent their teen's summer from going to pot."

"Marijuana use damages lungs, impairs learning, and decreases motivation. Kids who use marijuana in early adolescence are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as delinquency, engaging in sexual activity, driving while high or underage drinking. They are also more likely to perceive drugs as not harmful and have more friends who exhibit deviant behavior," said Daniel Angres, M.D., founder and director of Rush Behavioral Health in Illinois.

The increase in new marijuana use is likely due to teens having more unsupervised and unstructured time in the summer. Research shows that unmonitored teens are four times more likely to use marijuana or engage in other risky behaviors.

"In order to address this problem, teens need to have access to a variety of activities that will interest and engage them during the summer months," said Kenneth L. Gladish, Ph.D., National Executive Director, YMCA of the USA. "At their local YMCAs, teens can participate in a wide-range of structured and diverse programs year round that give them the opportunity for positive engagement and allow them to develop character, leadership, and skills to last a lifetime."

"As partners in parenting, camps create a positive community for youth to practice growing up, providing windows of opportunity to establish individual value systems that help them feel productive, connected, and able to navigate," said Marla Coleman, President of the American Camping Association. "Camp counselors are important role models and mentors to kids, helping them identify critical values and make positive choices in life."

The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration is offering new action-oriented advice and resources to help parents keep teens drug-free once school is out, including a summer drug-free checklist, a summer calendar with suggested activities, and an interactive self-rating tool (Does Your Summer Plan Stand the Heat?) to see if their teen will be safe this summer. These resources are available on the Campaign's Website for parents at www.TheAntiDrug.com/SchoolsOut. The Campaign also offers online materials for community organizations at www.MediaCampaign.org; for employers at www.TheAntiDrug.com/atwork; and for youth at www.Freevibe.com

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