The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released two new reports regarding substance abuse.

The first report suggests that 12 to 17 year-olds are far more likely to begin abusing most substances in the summer compared with any other time of the year. The second report reveals that the average yearly rate of drug-related emergency department (ED) visits decreased from 18.2% between 2005 to 2008 to 6.1% in 2009 and 2010.

According to the first study, over 11,000 12 to 17 year-old teenagers used alcohol for the first time on an average day in June and July. The only other month showing similar levels to these months is December. During the rest of the year, the daily average of teenagers using alcohol for the first time is 5,000 to 8,000.

The average rate of teenagers who smoke for the first time is similar, with 5,000 adolescents smoking their first cigarette in June and July compared with a daily average of 3,000 to 4,000 teens during all other months. More or less the same trend was observed for teenagers who smoked cigars or smokeless tobacco for the first time.

The trend was also similar in first-time marijuana use, with over 4,500 teens starting to use the substance on an average day in June and July, compared with around 3,000 to 4,000 youths during the remainder of the year.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde explains:

“More free time and less adult supervision can make the summertime an exciting time for many young people, but it can also increase the likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse. That is why it is critically important to take every opportunity we can throughout the year to talk to our young people about the real risks of substance abuse and effective measures for avoiding it, so they will be informed and capable of making the right decisions on their own.”

SAMHSA works closely with federal and state partners, like the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in promoting effective prevention programs that are particularly tailored for the summer months, which include the Drug Free Communities (DFC) coalitions program like the Youth Above the Influence Photovoice Project and the Smart Summer Campaign.

Youth Above the Influence Photovoice is a project in which youths work in their community to develop effective campaigns to tackle the underage drinking problem, whilst the Smart Summer Campaign is to encourage parents to help prevent their children from using substances. This can be done by monitoring their activities, setting realistic boundaries and spending time with their children in a constructive way throughout the summer season.

The report, featuring teenagers’ first-time use of substances by month, also investigated other substance abuse, including cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens and non-medical use of prescription medication. Whilst first-time hallucinogen use was also the highest in June and July, the first-time inhalant used was highest in July. However, first-time cocaine or non-medical prescription drug use was not higher in the summer months compared with other months.

SAMHSA has a large spectrum of programs in place, which offer methods for communities to help prevent all forms of substance abuse during the entire year. SAMHSA and its partners help to prevent teenagers from taking up risky behaviors and abusing substances by aggressively working to reach youngsters in every part of the community with their effective programs and messages of prevention.

SAMHSA also just released a new report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which measures one of the effects of drug use on the health care system.

The new report states that in 2010, patients aged 21 years or older made 4.0 million drug-related ED visits, 1.9 million of which, i.e. 47.2% involved drug misuse or abuse. The most common illegal drug amongst this age group was cocaine, with 210.7 visits per 100,000 population followed by marijuana with 151.0 visits per 100,000 population, whilst heroin users made 93.0 visits per 100,000 population, and amphetamines and/or methamphetamines reached 54.9 visits per 100,000 population.

In patients aged 20 years or younger, 45.3% ED visits involved drug misuse or abuse, with alcohol being the most frequently illegal drug amongst this age group with 215.4 visits per 100,000 population and 143.9 visits per 100,000 population for marijuana.

Click here for the DAWN report and detailed findings.

The report Monthly Variation in Substance Use Initiation among Adolescents is available here.

Written by Petra Rattue