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Teen Addiction Likely to Begin in Summer According to a Recent Study

Teen lighting a marijuana joint with a lighter      

A recent study found that the summer months have the highest rates of teen drug use each year. Teen addiction and drug abuse are often the result of experimentation. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that as many as one-third, first-time drug users were initiated to drugs during the summer.

Most commonly, teens began using the following drugs during the summer:

  • 3,033,000 people were introduced to marijuana
  • 1,037,000 people were introduced to cocaine
  • 794,000 people were introduced to LSD
  • 787,000 people were introduced to ecstasy

These drugs being introduced during the summer strongly suggests they are initiated recreationally in the context of a party. Addictive behavior or actions that surface during the summer should be noted, as this can lead to long-term drug abuse.

Teen Addiction Statistics

It is important to understand the prevalence of teen drug use in the United States.

How many teens are addicted to drugs?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future Survey, trends for drug use among adolescents in 2018 include:

  • 12.4% of 12th graders use marijuana
  • 32.5% of 12th graders say that opioid prescription drugs are readily available to them
  • 18.6% of 10th graders and 30.2% of 12th graders use alcohol

Why do teens get addicted to drugs?

  • Fitting in or social pressure
  • Feeling good, euphoria and pleasure
  • Feeling relief from mental health issues or stress
  • Experimentation and risk-taking

Teens are susceptible to peer pressure. Conformity is a way to feel comfortable. Cultural contexts that condone drug use can contribute greatly to teen drug abuse.

Why Teen Drug Use Skyrockets in Summer Months

Teen addiction may escalate in the summer for a variety of reasons. Without school, teens who don’t work have more time on their hands. There are also venues where drug use is popular, such as concerts and festivals.

Teen drug use can impair brain function and cause memory issues. Teens and drug abuse is not a simple issue with a clear solution. Recognizing patterns can help with prevention measures.

Recognizing Signs of Drug Use in Teens

Signs of drug use in teens may be identifiable early in their process of experimentation. Teen substance abuse has many distinct factors. Experts published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience describe some signs of teen drug abuse:

  • Changes in behaviors
  • Personality changes
  • Changing friends or multiple new relationships
  • Making excuses for unusual behavior
  • Withdrawal from family time or routines
  • Social withdrawal and increased privacy
  • Lack of communication
  • Violation or rules
  • Psychotropic behavior, including violence of hallucinations
  • Defiance or overreactions

It is important for the adults in a teen’s life to understand and look for these symptoms so they can provide help.

Dangers of Summertime Drug Use

Common drugs used by teens are widely available year-round but may have concentrated availability during the summer through concerts, festivals and at parks or outdoor venues. Teens that use drugs can be innovative about finding what they want. Increased, non-school related social interaction may be a contributing factor to a summertime spike in drug use.

Drug use among teens can be more dangerous during summer due to weather-related issues such as extreme heat. Overdose risks may increase if people become dehydrated. The summertime, vacation mindset may also lower inhibitions that would normally keep teens safe from unknown or unsafe drugs.

Preventing Teen Addiction

Teen addiction treatment is available. Teen addiction help can be found through detox and rehab centers as well as in counseling and mental health support. Often, the adults or parents in a teen’s life are the ones who identify a problem and provide guidance for recovery. If you or a teen in your life are struggling with drug abuse issues, Next Generation Village has multiple resources to assist you in finding help.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.” Revised December 2018. Accessed August 22, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.” Updated January 2014. Accessed August 22, 2019.

Palamar, Joseph J. et al. “Summer as a Risk Factor for Drug Initiation.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, July 23, 2019. Accessed August 22, 2019.

Shahid, Ali. “Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teenagers.” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, December 2011. Accessed August 22, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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