It’s the start of summer which means school is out so bring on the sunshine and vacations! Summer should be fun for the whole family, but during this time of relaxation and freedom, teens are more susceptible to alcohol and other drug use. This is due to teens having a less-structured schedule and less adult supervision. According to a report released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, during June and July, more than 11,000 teens on average use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 start smoking cigarettes and 4,500 try marijuana. As a parent, you can be a vital part of changing these statistics.

Many parents make the mistake of thinking their child isn’t old enough and that this won’t be a problem for them at such a young age. These days, children are being offered drugs and alcohol at younger and younger ages. In 2013, 20.5% of Knox County Schools middle school students reported they had ever tried drinking alcohol and 10% reported they had ever used marijuana. Parents need to talk to their kids about the risks of using drugs and alcohol as early as possible. The best way to combat your child trying out drugs and alcohol is to keep them busy during these laid-back summer months. Things like summer jobs, camps and sports are all activities that can keep your child active.

You know your child better than anyone else. Look for these warning signs if you suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol:

  • Irregular school attendance or poor grades
  • Carelessness about personal appearance
  • Disinterest in hobbies, sports or other activities
  • A new group of friends
  • Irregular eating and sleeping patterns
  • Negative change in personal values
  • Significant mood changes (withdrawn, depressed, hostile, uncooperative/defiant, defensive)
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Stealing money, prescription medications or alcohol
  • Change in family relationships
  • Red/watery/glassy eyes or runny nose
  • Lies about where they are going or who they are with
  • Stays out late or past curfew