By the HELP Committee
and Havre Public Schools
White House drug czar John P. Walters recently warned parents that first-time marijuana use among teens increases dramatically during the summer. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there is a 38 percent increase in marijuana initiation during June, July and August, compared with the rest of the year. The survey's data are taken from the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
"It's a fact that more teens try marijuana for the first time during the summer months. Parents need to be especially vigilant over the next few months and help keep their kids drug-free," said Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Marijuana use is especially harmful for teens, because their bodies and brains are still developing."
Having more unsupervised and unstructured time in the summer may trigger teens to take the risk of smoking marijuana. Research shows that unmonitored teens are four times more likely to use marijuana or engage in other risky behaviors. Teens who report they are "often bored" are 50 percent more likely to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs than teens who aren't. Teens with summer jobs are also at risk for drug use because of increased disposable income and exposure to older co-workers.
"Parents play a crucial role in keeping their kids drug-free" said Philippe Cunningham, a family therapist at the University of South Carolina. "We know that teens of parents who keep a close eye on them and ask them where they are going, what they're doing and when they'll be home, are less likely to use marijuana. Even if your teen is busy with a summer job, keep close tabs on them. This is a risky time of year."
Research shows that parents are the most powerful influence on their teens when it comes to drugs. In fact, two-thirds of youths ages 13 to 17 say fear of upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs.
More teens use marijuana than all other illicit drugs combined. Research shows that marijuana can be addictive and lead to a host of health, social, learning and behavioral problems at a crucial time in young lives. Shortened attention spans, decreased energy and ambition, depression, suicidal thoughts, breathing problems and exposure to cancerous chemicals are just a few of them. Additionally, the marijuana that teens use today has more than twice the concentration of THC, the chemical that affects the brain, than the marijuana of 20 years ago.
TheAntiDrug.com is a Web site for parents hosted by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. At the site, parents can learn how to prevent their children from using marijuana. Pointers include setting clear no-drug rules, monitoring the behavior of their teens, reserving time for family and encouraging participation in summer activities.
One source for age-appropriate summer activities in the Havre area is the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line, 500 First Ave. in Havre. The club is open from 1 to 5 p.m. most weekdays during the summer months and includes a teen center that has recently been remodeled to double its size.
For more information on preventing teen drug use, call the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-line at 265-6206 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.