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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Columbia: Epidemiology Professor Co-Authors Study Reporting People More Likely to Try Drugs for First Time in Summer

American teenagers and adults are more likely to try illegal or recreational drugs for the first time in the summer, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Dr. Katherine Keyes, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, is a co-author on the research which was led by New York University’s Langone Health.

The study found that over a third (34 percent) of recent LSD initiates first used the drug in the summer. In addition, 30 percent of marijuana, 30 percent of ecstasy (also known as MDMA or Molly), and 28 percent of cocaine use was found to begin in summer months.

The researchers used data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2011 and 2017 involving about 394,415 people ages 12 and older. Participants were surveyed about their use of various drugs through a computer-assisted interview. New users were asked to recall the month and year when they initiated use.

The investigators suggest that the results could be explained, in part, by people having extra recreational time during the summer, as well as the growing popularity of outdoor activities, such as music festivals, at which recreational drug use is common. They stress that further research is needed to determine the particular situations – especially in the summer – when people are most likely to use drugs for the first time and to determine the extent to which use is planned or unplanned.

“Conversations about the risks of drug use, as well as safe use, need to happen between adolescents and young adults with the older adults in their lives all year long, but summer is a key time period in which these conversation should occur,” said Dr. Keyes

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