Your first drink tends to be one of the most memorable. For our weekly Wednesday interviews, we give interviewees a choice of questions and nearly everyone opts to answer the question, “How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?”
I had my first drink–a whiskey sour–at my father’s 50th birthday party. I was 14 years old.
While there’s been much research on the age when kids start drinking, there’s been little done on the month when first-time drinking takes place. The latest research, released this month by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, confirms that more teenagers start drinking (and smoking cigarettes and marijuana) in June and July than in any other months, according to U.S. health officials.
As reported by Health Day News, the summer months see about twice as many teenagers trying alcohol for the first time compared to the rest of the year. On average, the rest of the year sees about 5,000 to 8,000 teenagers per day trying their first sip of alcohol.
“These months include periods when adolescents are on a break from school and have more idle time; they have fewer structured responsibilities and less adult supervision,” said Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Parents need to know that summertime is when their teens are more likely to start smoking, drinking and using drugs.”
The findings are based on data from the administration’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the years 2002 to 2012, which include interviews with more than 230,000 teens.
In brief, the survey highlighted the following facts:
● First-time use of most substances peaks during the summer months of June and July
● On an average day in June, July, or December, more than 11,000 youths used alcohol for the first time; in other months, the daily average ranged from about 5,000 to 8,000 new users per day
● On an average day in June or July, more than 5,000 youths smoked cigarettes for the first time; in other months, the daily average ranged from about 3,000 to 4,000 new users per day
● On an average day in June or July, more than 4,800 youths used marijuana for the first time, whereas the daily average ranged from about 3,000 to 4,000 in other months
Summer is a great time to enjoy the reduced pressure that kids experience during the school year. But it’s also a time for parents to sit down and talk about the risks involved in drinking and smoking.
Bruce Goldman, director of substance abuse services at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said parents need to work with their kids to plan their time–to have some structured activity every day, reported Healthday. ”You should have an open dialogue with your children in terms of what they’re doing and about alcohol and drugs,” he said.
“The longer you can delay adolescents from experimenting with alcohol and drugs, the better their chances of not developing problems later in life,” Goldman said. “It’s critical that parents be alert.”