Study: People more likely to experiment with drugs during the summer

NEW YORK — Summertime is often associated with lazy days, barbecues by the pool, and parties. All of that relaxation may lead to some temptation as well, according to researchers from the NYU School of Medicine. A new study has found that both American teenagers and adults are more likely to try illegal or recreational drugs for the first time during the summer months.

Remarkably, over a third (34%) of first-time LSD users tried the drug over the summer. Other drugs such as marijuana (30%), ecstasy/MDMA (30%), and cocaine (28%) displayed similarly high initial use statistics during the summer months.

“First-time users may be unfamiliar with the effects of various drugs, so it is important to first understand when people are most likely to start these behaviors,” explains senior study investigator author Dr. Joseph J. Palamar in a statement.

The study’s authors analyzed data originally collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2011 and 2017 on 394,415 people aged 12 or older. Each person was asked to describe their experiences with various illegal drugs, and new drug users were asked to recall the month and year they first tried the drug in question.

For reference, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over three million Americans tried LSD, cocaine, marijuana, or ecstasy for the first time in 2017.

Researchers theorize that people are more inclined to try drugs during the summer simply because they have more free time on their hands. The study also brought up the extremely common use of recreational drugs at popular summertime outdoor music festivals.

“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,” says Palamar.

Palamar’s team says that if someone is determined to try a drug for the first time, it is important for the prospective user to educate themselves on what to expect and any potential side effects. It is also recommended that first time drug users stay hydrated, get plenty of rest beforehand, and wait to indulge until they are in the company of trusted friends.

The extent to which initial drug use, during the summer or any other season, is planned or spontaneous is still unclear.

The study is published in the scientific Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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