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Americans Love Trying New Drugs In Summer, Says Science

Summer is a time of listless freedom, a dead zone of culture and news, and a period to gather with friends for lazy barbecue-filled afternoons. According to a new study, it’s also the season for experimenting with drugs. Conducted by researchers at New York and Columbia Universities, the study found that first-timers — both teenagers and adults — are more apt to experiment with illegal or recreational drugs during summer.

Other reports have previously discovered teenagers and college students were more likely to try alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana for the first time during summer months, but this study, published in the Journal for General Internist Medicine, focused its attention on age groups including adults. In addition, the researchers were interested in the time of initiation for cocaine and hallucinogenic drugs for various demographics.

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The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported in 2017 more than 3 million tried either cannabis, LSD, ecstasy, or cocaine for the first time. Among those new to using LSD, researchers found 34% of initiates first tried acid in the summer. Meanwhile, 30% of new cannabis use, 30% of MDMA use, and 28% of cocaine use first occurred during summer months.

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“First-time users may be unfamiliar with the effects of various drugs, so it is important to first understand when people are most likely to start these behaviors,” study senior investigator Joseph J. Palamar said in a statement. 

Palamar, an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine, and other researchers also suggested an explanation for why Americans were more likely to experiment with drugs in the summer. The emergence of music festivals — where recreational drug activity is encouraged — and more idle time served as factors, says Palamar.

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“Parents and educators who are concerned about their kids need to educate them year-round about potential risks associated with drug use, but special emphasis appears to be needed before or during summer months when rates of initiation increase,” Palamar said.

However, Palamar and his team encouraged potential users to be aware of potential side effects, should they be among the summer wave of drug initiates. In addition, they advised to only experiment in the company of friends you could trust while staying properly hydrate as best practices to avoid negative outcomes.

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