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Granite State Prime Turf for First-Time Teen Alcohol Use

Research shows December is among the top three months for first-time alcohol use among teens. (Mike Clifford)
Research shows December is among the top three months for first-time alcohol use among teens. (Mike Clifford)
December 22, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. - December is a time of good cheer, but it is also one of the prime months for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

Jayson Pratt, vice president and regional clinical director for Phoenix House of New England, a group of nonprofit treatment centers, said that while many states see spikes this time of year in which about one-third of young people end up using alcohol and drugs, many more are likely to experiment in New Hampshire.

"What's different about the New England area is that they're starting at significantly higher numbers than the national average," he said. "And so, you can see numbers up well over 50 percent of our children who are using drugs or alcohol within the last 30 days."

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, on an average day in December, more than 11,000 young people nationwide will try alcohol for the first time.

Pratt called New England the "epicenter" of the nation's drug and opioid epidemic. Granite State lawmakers just showed they're taking the issue seriously by calling a special legislative session devoted to substance abuse issues, he said. Still, he added, the state is sorely lacking treatment options for young people.

"It you're the mother or the father of an adolescent, you're going to have to take your son or daughter out-of-state. There are no residential treatment facilities that are currently open in New Hampshire that can treat substance abuse issues for adolescents."

Pratt said the main reasons substance abuse spikes around holiday times are that families are busy and kids are out of school, meaning less supervision. He cautioned parents to reach out to other families and make sure there will be a responsible adult present when teens pay a visit.

Government statistics are online at samhsa.gov. More about Phoenix House is at phoenixhouse.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH