Teens 'more likely to try drugs in the summer': How to have the drugs talk with your children

New research has found more teenagers try drugs in the summer [Photo: Getty]
New research has found more teenagers try drugs in the summer [Photo: Getty]

Teenagers and adults are more likely to try drugs for the first time in the summer, new research has revealed.

For the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers analysed information from more than 394,000 Americans ages 12 and older who completed a yearly survey on drug use between 2011 and 2017.

Participants were asked whether they had used certain common drugs and what month and year they tried the drugs for the first time.

The results revealed that during the summer months, June, July, August, more people first tried drugs such as LSD, MDMA and cocaine, compared with other times of year.

Findings showed that over a third (34 percent) of those who’d tried LSD first used the drug in the summer.

While just under a third (30 percent) of marijuana, 30 percent of ecstasy (also known as MDMA or Molly), and 28 percent of cocaine use was found to begin in summer months.

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Scientists suggested a couple of theories to explain the uptake in drug initiation in the summer time including that the results may, in part, be down to people having extra leisure time during this period.

Outdoor social activities, such as festivals, are also more common in the summer and could increase a teenager’s chances of being exposed to drugs and their potential desire to try them.

"Parents and educators who are concerned about their kids need to educate them year-round about potential risks associated with drug use, but special emphasis appears to be needed before or during summer months, when rates of initiation increase," study senior author Joseph Palamar, an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at the New York University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The authors went on to warn that first-time summer drug users may be unfamiliar with the potential effects of the drugs, which could put them at higher risk of harm.

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Researchers say outdoor social events, like festivals, play a part [Photo: Getty]
Researchers say outdoor social events, like festivals, play a part [Photo: Getty]

With that in mind and the summer holidays just beginning now could be a good time for parents to have the drug talk with their children.

"Being able to talk to your children is key to preventing and limiting the potential problems caused by drug misuse, yet many parents feel unable to tackle this subject, partly because they feel ill-informed and afraid that their child will know more about drugs than they do,” Callum Jacobs from FRANK explains on the Family Lives website.

“However, this is too important an issue to be swept under the carpet - every parent needs to find out the facts about drugs so that they can feel confident enough to talk to their children."

The NHS has put together some tips for parents about tackling the tricky topic with their children and teenagers.

Don't panic

It’s understandable that parents might react in panic and anger on discovering their children have tried drugs, so the NHS advises waiting until you’re feeling more calm before discussing the subject.

They also suggest you show children love and concern rather than anger.

Do your homework about drugs

It’s vital that parents become clued up on drugs, so they can talk to children in an informed way.

The national drugs website FRANK is a reliable source of drugs information.

Pick your moment

And as they’re about to rush out the door isn’t it. Likewise, if they’re using drugs don’t confront them while they are feeling the effects of the drugs.

“It may help to do it when the subject comes up during TV programmes or in the news,” the site advises.

Equally mealtimes can be a good time for chatting.

“It's often easier to have a conversation side-by-side, such as when you're driving in the car, washing up together or preparing food,” the site adds.

Let them know your values

It's important for your children to know where you stand on drug taking.

Be clear about your opinions on drugs and let them know your boundaries. For example, you may say that you don't want any drugs in the house.

Avoid scare tactics

The NHS advises striking a balance between warning without scaremongering.

“Teenage children often know more about drugs than you do, so there's no point in saying, ‘Smoking cannabis will kill you’,” they explain.

“Pointing out that cannabis can cause mental health problems, especially if you start smoking it in your teens, may be more of a deterrent.”

Know your child's friends

“Get to know your child's friends. Invite them to the house and take an interest in what’s going on in their lives,” the NHS advises.

“If you have good reason to think your child's friends are involved in drugs, you may need to support your child to find new friends.”

Let them know you're always there for them

As with any difficult topic, if your child knows you're there for them whatever, they're more likely to be honest with you. Likewise, they won't just tell you what they think you want to hear.

Listen as well as talk

Though it’s tempting to preach and make assumptions about what your child is doing, the NHS advises against this.

Instead they suggest encouraging them to tell you about their experiences, and trying to listen without judging.

Don't give up

If your initial chat doesn’t go well don’t be put off trying again.

“Parents' opinions matter to their children. Go back to the subject when they’re calmer,” the site advises.

Let them be responsible for their actions

Of course parents are trying to help their children make good choices, but ultimately it is down to them to say no to trying drugs.

“Make sure they know you support them, but it's up to them to make positive decisions,” the site explains.

Be realistic

While lots of teenagers experiment with drugs, only a small proportion will develop a drug problem.

For more information on support groups and counselling services, visit www.talktofrank.com or call the FRANK helpline on 0800 77 66 00.