By KELLY SICKAFOOSE
Substance Abuse Awareness Council
The rate of youth using alcohol for the first time doubles in the months of June and July, largely due to summer being an unsupervised time when teens are alone or with their peers.
Researchers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that during June and July, more than 11,000 teens from the ages of 12 to 17 try alcohol for the first time every day. While the 5,000 to 8,000 new users a day during the rest of year is also a significant figure, it’s easy to see that parents need to be especially wary during the summer months.
Also during the summer, more than 5,800 teens will smoke marijuana for the first time each day. According to results of the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, nearly 40 percent of all youth aged 12 to 17 who said they used marijuana said they first used it during the period between May and August. The peak months are June and July.
It’s a tough reality that once a child has tried smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and trying other forms of drugs, their chances of repeated use increase. Also, some of these are gateway drugs, opening the door to trying and using harder street drugs.
What can parents do to make sure their child doesn’t become part of these figures?
1. Keep them busy with productive activities. A Columbia University study found that young people who were frequently bored were 50% likelier to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.
2. Ensure adequate supervision. Some youth no longer require a 24 hour babysitter, but they can be made to check in regularly with a responsible adult.
3. Educate your child. Ensuring their understanding of how drugs can negatively affect a person’s life is well worth the time invested. Research now shows that it's best to tell kids about the dangers of underage drinking as early as age 9. Reminders can also go a long way.
4. Keep your home risk-free. Monitorthe alcohol and prescription drugs in your home or store them in a lockable cabinet. If you have unused prescription drugs, please take them to the orange Unwanted Medication Disposal Box in front of the Decatur Police Departmentso they can be kept out of the hands of our youth.
Sometimes, despite the above steps being taken, youth still use alcohol or drugs. Some signs that need parental or professional intervention include:
Smell of alcohol on breath, or unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing;
Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual;
Abrupt changes in mood, attitude, appetite, and/or sleep patterns;
Deterioration of physical appearance;
Uncharacteristic withdrawal from family, friends or interests;
Secrecy about new friends, actions or possessions;
Frequently getting into trouble (fights, illegal activities).
Parental involvement is critical: More than 80 percent of children say parents are the leading influence in their decisions regarding alcohol and drugs.
For more information, please visit our website at www.adamscountysaac.com.