Baton Rouge – Home alone. These are words that cause concern for parents when they think about leaving their children unsupervised. Yet, the idle days of summer, when school is no longer in session, pose an increased threat to teens. 

National statistics show that during the summer, more than 5,800 teens will smoke marijuana for the first time each day. Statistics show that youthful experimentation with drugs, tobacco and alcohol is most likely to occur during an unsupervised time when teens are alone or with their peers. According to the results of the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse of 2002, nearly 40 percent of all youngsters aged 12 to 17 who said they used marijuana at least once said they had their first experience during the four-month period between May and August. 

According to John Walters, the head of the national Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana use by teens spikes in the summer months. 

“Marijuana is riskier than many parents think,” Walters explains. “In fact, more teens are in treatment for marijuana (60 percent) than for all other illicit drugs combined.” 

In the Florida Parishes, Cheryl Klein, a prevention coordinator with the Department of Health and Hospitals’ Office for Addictive Disorders, agrees with Walters, “Parents need to be made aware of these statistics so they can find ways to keep their teens busy and active during the summer months.  We are doing a better job these days of keeping our young people occupied, but they still have too much free time in the summer, time that many of them could use for harmful and illegal activities.” 

DHH’s Office for Addictive Disorders is joining with the national Drug Control office to support an effort to educate teens and parents about the increased risk for first-time drug use in the summer. According to Michael Duffy, OAD assistant secretary, the campaign is trying to give people a sense of urgency about this problem. 

“They are using a catchy slogan, ‘School’s Out:  Don’t Let Your Teen’s Summer Go to Pot,’ to get the message out to parents,” Duffy said. “Combined with our successful prevention strategies, some headway is occurring.” 

Duffy said in Region IX, local organizations are achieving results. Citing statistics from the Communities That Care survey (taken in the fall of 2002 by the Department of Education and DHH’s Office for Addictive Disorders), marijuana use by young people in that region of the state (Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes) is down from the 2001 survey. See chart below. 

“There are many popular myths that suggest that marijuana is harmless, but marijuana use harms young bodies and minds and puts our young people at-risk for other drug use while they are still developing,” said LDH Secretary David Hood. “I am pleased that our Office for Addictive Disorders has used the Communities that Care survey to best focus our prevention activities, and that these strategies are getting results.”  

2002 Communities That Care Survey results for Marijuana Use by Youth

(Livingston, Tangipahoa, St. Helena and Washington Parishes)

 

Grade 6

Grade 8

Grade 10

Grade 12

Survey Year

1998

2001

2002

1998

2001

2002

1998

2001

2002

1998

2001

2002

Used during lifetime

5.0

7.2

3.6

18.7

20.0

15.8

34.2

33.1

29.0

42.1

40.6

35.3

Used in last 30 days

1.9

4.2

1.7

9.4

10.7

6.8

14.9

14.9

14.2

17.3

17.8

14.0

 

 For more facts on marijuana or the national campaign, contact Cheryl Klein or Sue Kennedy at the OAD Region IX office, 985-871-1383.