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Is Recreational Drug Use Higher In The Summer?

by Landmark Recovery

June 1, 2021
sober community people sitting outside on a summer day

Do More People Try Drugs in the Summer?

An NYU School of Medicine study shows that drug use, specifically recreational drug use spikes among first-time users in the summer months.

Specifically, more people use marijuana, as well as party drugs like cocaine and Molly.

This study was published back in mid-2019 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine based on an analysis of NSDUH data from 2011 through 2017. Data involved almost 395,000 people aged 12 and above.

Participants were asked about their use of recreational drugs through computer-assisted interviews. All new users were asked to supply the month and year of first use.

The data reveals an increase in first-time use of the following drugs:

  • Cocaine: 28% first used in the summer
  • LSD: 34% first used in the summer
  • Marijuana: 30% first used in the summer
  • Molly: 30% first used in the summer

Why are Party Drugs More Popular in the Summer?

Throughout 2017, millions of people started using marijuana and cocaine for the first time, according to NDSUH research.

Specifically, roughly 3 million Americans first started using marijuana, while around a million adults first dabbled with cocaine. LSD and Molly each attracted 700,000 new users that same year.

The study team analyzing these national surveys on recreational drug use began with a sharp focus on Molly. It soon became apparent that the first-time use of other recreational drugs also increased over the summer months.

Why are more of these drugs used at this time of year, then?

The researchers point to people having more free time in the summer prompting some to fill those extra hours with experimental drug use. Summer is also the occasion for more outdoor festivals. Here, attendees routinely abuse party drugs.

The positive news is that an awareness of this problem allows for the more effective rollout of harm reduction and prevention strategies.

What Does This Mean for Prevention of Party Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse prevention efforts should target teens and young adults in the United States as the summer vacation looms. With the danger zone for first-time drug use on the horizon, schools should initiate a frank and open dialogue with students focused on the following:

  • The legitimate dangers of drug use stripped of any hype
  • How recreational drug use can adversely affect you in the warmer months, particularly with regard to dehydration
  • Education about managing drug use to minimize negative outcomes

Given the demonstrable failure of the war on drugs, a more realistic approach might yield dividends where scare tactics and prohibition have failed.

And it’s the shifting sands of marijuana legality that rate a mention when it comes to first-time drug use.

The Changing Landscape of Marijuana Use in the United States

A 2019 study illustrates an increase in the problematic use of marijuana among both adults and adolescents after recreational marijuana was legalized.

This was the first study examining the impact of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the following areas across different age groups:

  • Marijuana use
  • Cannabis use disorder

From 2012 to 2015, marijuana was legalized for both recreational and medical use in many states. When examining the data in relation to these law changes, researchers found the following:

  • There was no change in the way young adults (18 to 25) used or abused marijuana post-legalization
  • Among 12 to 17 year-olds, problematic use of marijuana increased by a fraction of one percent. Past-month use and frequent use among teens remained unchanged
  • 26% more adults aged 26+ reported past-month marijuana use in recreational states. Frequent use increased by 23%, with a 37% uptick reported in problematic marijuana use

So, while it would seem that marijuana has many possible medical benefits, recreational legalization appears to lead to increased recreational drug use. Compounding the issue is even more people than ever trying marijuana for the first time in summer months.

How about Molly, then?

Molly in Clubland

Molly, also known as ecstasy, is an illegal synthetic party drug with psychoactive properties. Some users describe Molly as a combination of meth and mescaline.

Formally called MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), this synthetic, psychoactive drug acts simultaneously as stimulant and hallucinogen. Users experience a distortion of time and perceptions, a surge of euphoria, and increased energy.

Initially used primarily among young adults at clubs and raves, Molly rapidly became popular among college students. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 17 million Americans report using Molly at some point.

Molly can lead to dehydration, sometimes with fatal consequences. MDMA overdose is rare, but the drug often contains other substances and contaminants that could be harmful, from bulking agents to fentanyl.

What Comes Next

With spring well underway and summer knocking on the door, avoid the temptation to indulge in party drugs. You’ve probably spent most of the past year without clubbing, so why fall back into bad habits?

If you are using party drugs like Molly or cocaine, take all sensible precautions, including staying fully hydrated. Avoid mixing drugs, and avoid taking too much.

For anyone already abusing these drugs, help is at hand when you’re ready to commit to recovery through our inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. To move away from a party lifestyle, call the team right now at 888-448-0302.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.