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Substance abuse increases during the summer, study found; here's what to look out for

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Posted at 6:16 AM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 06:23:57-04

(WXYZ) — Summertime is a time of joy for so many here in Michigan. It's time to get out and connect with friends, a time to be more active and a time to decompress.

But, summer is also a particularly dangerous time for those suffering from substance abuse.

According to a study from NYU School of Medicine, both teens and adults are more likely to try illegal and recreational drugs for the first time during the summer months.

Even for those already in recovery, the fight to stay sober is much harder when the weather warms up. After the past 16 months, substance abuse experts fear we’re in for a torrent of abuse and heartache.

Andrew Brown is a program manager in recovery services at Care of Southeast Michigan in Fraser and is has been on both sides of the battle.

I've been in recovery since August 18, 2007, so 13 years," he said.

Brown says so many activities during the summer are tied to drinking. Everything from hitting the water to hitting the links, it can be difficult for someone struggling with substance abuse to be social and stay sober.

"When the weather gets nice, when you can go swimming, when you can do things outside of the house, it does. It was a hard time for myself," Brown said.

That's in a traditional year. In 2021 Brown, is worried about people trying to handle the reopening society and manage sobriety.

"This year, especially with COVID, you know, I'm worried a little bit about a powder keg maybe that people are just so pent up," he said.

Nate Stone, a clinical psychologist with the Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy said people's anxieties and depression were elevated.

He says during the pandemic we saw a 13 percent increase in substance use and an 18 percent increase in overdoses. Alcohol and drug use during the pandemic could go into overdrive during the summer social season.

"They were drinking a lot or smoking a lot during the pandemic and now they're elevating it," Stone said. "That has to do with a lot of people gain weight. They don't want to go back to work."

But summer substance abuse isn't just about those already struggling with alcoholism and drug use.

A study from researchers at NYU School of Medicine finds 34 percent of new LSD users started during the summer, 30 percent of marijuana and ecstasy use and 28 percent of cocaine use also began in the summer months. This is for adults both also college students and teens.

"We see a lot of that people experiment over the summer because mom's mom and dad are at work," Stone said.

What can we do? If you’re in recovery. Be aware of who you surround yourself with.

When you’re socializing, take someone with you to help you to support you in your recovery, and have a plan to get away if the pressure is too much:

If someone in your life is struggling with substance use disorder, approach them with love and compassion. Help them get help. And if you’re wondering if you have a problem it’s time to reach out. You’re not alone.

"It's very hard in the long run to do this just by yourself. It really is. It's the relapse rate there is through the roof," he said.

There is a lot of shame attached to substance use disorder, and that keeps a lot of people from getting help.

But there are discreet and private ways of getting help. And so many different approaches. The important thing is to not give up.

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