You guessed it right – people use more drugs during summer than any other time of the year. But have you ever wondered why that’s the case? Well, according to a post published on the National Drug Institute on Drug Abuse, summer offers more idle time along with social activities like outdoor dance parties and music festivals that increase exposure to drugs. In fact, the post also reveals that most drug problems begin in the summertime.
In 2017 alone, close to 790,000 people tried ecstasy (MDMA/Molly), 800,000 tried LSD, and 3 million tried marijuana for the first time. NIDA funded a study to determine whether this first-time use was related to seasonal changes. Researchers looked at data from the 2011 - 2017 NSDUH, observing about 400,000 people and their first-time use of these illegal drugs.
Participants were asked whether they have used any of the drugs and what month and year they initiated use in the study. Most of them said they tried the drugs during summer than any other time of year. Findings showed that initiation was more likely to happen during summer, accounting for 34% of LSD use, 30% of marijuana and ecstasy use, and 28% of cocaine use. More people started using marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and ecstasy during the summer months.
Why does drug use increase in summer?
Most people look forward to summer - warm weather, trips to the beach, endless parties, and lots of free time. Teens, in particular, fondly anticipate the summer months because they have no school and are free of responsibilities. Here’s why most of them try out drugs during summer.
More free time
Many young adults find themselves with lots of free time during summer. They have no classwork or projects going on. And even when they’re working, they still have a chance to enjoy summer Fridays and long holiday weekends. With lots of free time in their hands, they are more likely to jump into any activity that will keep them busy – including going to parties (which are all the rage during summer).
Less adult supervision
But with the fun and freedom comes a risk of drug use and addiction. Teens are susceptible to a range of influences, including pop culture, social media, and peers. And with lots of free time during summer and less adult supervision, it’s easy to see why a blend of these factors can influence experimental behavior.
Social gatherings and parties
House parties, beach parties, music festivals, birthday parties, and so many events are happening, and teens are spoilt for choice. And guess what keeps the party lit? Drugs and alcohol. As we’ve mentioned earlier, teens are vulnerable to lots of things. So they may do things to try to feel good or fit in.
However, these are not always the only reasons teens try out drugs during summer. Some of them have mental health problems that they’re unwilling to address or resolve in some other way. Mental illness and drug use tend to go hand in hand.
Besides, the teen might assume that some drugs are acceptable or even somewhat safe because many other people in the same situations as them are using.
Dangers of using different drugs in summer
Abusing drugs – both prescription and illicit drugs – comes with a range of risks. But using drugs over summer poses even more danger because of the heat. As the temperatures rise during hot, humid summer months, health experts warn of an increased risk for developing heat stroke.
High doses of drugs can cause the body to lose its temperature-regulating abilities, preventing it from cooling down through sweating. This may lead to critical health issues like dehydration and drug-induced fever.
When excessive heat combines with drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and meth, the results can be deadly. Drugs and alcohol can mask signs of overheating. People who use drugs or alcohol during summer may not notice the temperatures rising beyond the normal levels.
As a result, the body and brain overheat from drugs, putting them at high risk for stroke and death. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, an average of 702 heat death-related deaths occurred in the US annually between 2004 and 2018. Here are drugs that are especially dangerous in summer.
Cocaine disrupts the body’s natural ability to regulate temperature and simultaneously makes one agitated. So, even as the body temperature rises to dangerous levels, one is driven to constantly move about – pushing the body temperatures to extremes. This can result in fatal overheating, which explains why cocaine deaths spike during the summer months.
People have assumed that ecstasy is a safe drug for a long time, but this isn’t true. Ecstasy causes lots of extensive and alarming symptoms that can worsen with heat. MDMA is particularly dangerous because it disrupts the body’s ability to regulate temperature. This puts users at risk for heat injury, dehydration, and fatal heatstroke.
Alcohol causes dehydration, and that’s what makes it dangerous during summer. It suppresses the production of water reabsorption hormone, causing more fluid to be lost through urination. Besides, alcohol use can cause vomiting that further reduces body fluids. Consequently, this may lead to sleepiness, sticky mouth, headache, decreased urination, and dizziness that can cause the body not to regulate heat.
Amphetamines like meth delay sensations of exhaustion and heat, and that’s what makes them dangerous in summer. Users don’t just know when to stop, so they’ll keep overworking themselves until they overheat.
Prevention and treatment
Dr. Joseph Palamar, an associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, told CNN that prevention efforts should target young adults about to finish the school year and inform them about the dangers of using drugs during hot months. According to the doctor, trying drugs for the first time puts one at a unique risk of overdose and death because they might not have prepared for the use or are unfamiliar with the drug.
It’s also important to encourage people to stop using drugs to celebrate because of the associated problems. Instead, they can try sober activities like hiking, learning a new hobby, swimming, doing service, etc. All these can still be fulfilling and come with zero risks for heat stroke and death.