Does the weather impact teen drug use?

Much is blamed on winter weather. Arthritis pain. Cold and flu viruses. Higher blood pressure.

Could teen drug use escalate in colder months, too?


Studies show teens experiment with drugs more often in summer.

Summer is riskier

Although winter makes us want to eat more carbs and hibernate, a study by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates teens use illegal substances the most in June and July (summer break.)

“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.” – Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA administrator.

Just take a look at some of the findings from a SAMHSA report published July 2012:

  • “The first time most teens used an illicit substance was in June or July.”
  • “On any given day around 5,000 to 8,000 teens take their first drink of alcohol. In June and July the number jumps to over 11,000.”
  • “While most days 3,000 to 4,000 kids smoke pot for the first time, in June or July the number increased to over 4,800.”
  • “These same summertime spikes were found with the use of hallucinogens and inhalants.”

Quotes source: Teens Do More Drugs During Summer Break

No risk for winter?

Although the study points to summertime carrying the highest risk for teen’s experimenting with drugs the first time, remember that if a teen is involved in drug use, they’re likely to use it at any time. Plus:

Most schools have ‘winter breaks’

Administrators indicate the freedom and lack of structure and supervision is what may lead to high summer break drug use. Although winter breaks may be shorter, they can those same freedoms. Keep tabs on your teens when they are out of school for any reason.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can give the ‘winter blues’

Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? It’s a clinical diagnosis given to those who have noticeable and diagnosed mood changes that come seasonally. Many diagnosed with SAD experience depression in the summer or winter months. Depression can potentially lead to substance abuse.

Having SAD increases your risk of developing a substance abuse disorder and researchers say that some alcoholics tend to drink with some seasonality, likely as way to cope with feelings of depression related to SAD.

Advice for parents

Parenting a teen is not an easy job. As you discern how to best interact with your teen and set boundaries, remember:
  • Teens are more likely to experiment when unsupervised.
  • Any “no-school” day may be a time when students experiment with substances.
  • Depression may lead to substance abuse.

If you’re a parent searching for this information, you’re on the right track! Let us know if we can help in any way – especially if you need proof that your teen has been drinking alcohol or tried drugs.

Contact any of our three Test Smartly Labs of Kansas City locations for a convenient drug test.

Speak Your Mind