Commonly Abused Drugs on the 4th of July

It’s a sad fact of life that the celebration of America’s independence is a day — make that a weekend — that is also synonymous with out-of-control drinking, drugging, and associated violence, overdose and deaths. Young or old, age makes no difference when it comes to people losing their senses and partying much too hard. What are the drugs that people are likely to gravitate towards this year? Here’s a look at commonly abused drugs on the 4th of July. Hint: The first two are no-brainers. In fact, they claim the top two spots throughout the year, not just on Independence Day.

Alcohol: The Number One Drug of Choice

What’s a July 4th celebration without kegs of beer running non-stop, or a cooler filled with ice and assorted bottles of booze to take the edge off the heat? Too much sun, too much liquor, not enough food and quite possibly combining some other drugs with alcohol to really get a buzz going — all of this can and does result in some preventable statistics each year:

  • In 2013, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 7 million persons aged 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least one time during the past year. While the NSDUH doesn’t break out holiday periods, it is reasonable to assume that during the July 4th celebration, which is traditionally associated with fireworks, festivities and drinking, people are drinking and abusing alcohol and getting behind the wheel.
  • July 4th is part of the 100 deadliest days of summer, according to the Alcoholics Anonymous. This is the time (Memorial Day to Labor Day) when teens are at most risk of being involved in an accident, and underage drinking plays a big part in motor vehicle accidents, injuries and fatalities during this holiday.
  • Crime is on the upswing over the 4th of July holiday weekend, with increasing numbers of crimes reported across the country during the period in 2014. It’s not expected to be any different this year, especially with unsuspecting drinkers serving as easy pickings for those bent on taking your valuables (like your money and your car), assaulting your person, rape, and other crimes. In its 2014 report of vehicle theft, the National Insurance Crime Bureau listed the July 4th holiday at number 8 on the top 10 holidays for car thefts, with 1,750 stolen nationwide.
  • DUI checkpoints will be everywhere this Fourth of July, part of the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many states and municipalities are vowing “zero tolerance” for the presence of alcohol and drugs in drivers found to be over the legal limit.

Wacked Out on Weed

Marijuana is the most commonly-abused illicit drug in America, and has kept this dubious distinction for several years. In 2013, 5.7 million people used marijuana daily or almost daily during the past year and 4.2 million were classified as dependent upon or abusing pot. For many teens, pot is easier to score than alcohol. It’s also much stronger in recent years as the main mind-altering ingredient, delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has ratcheted up in potency. But it’s not just teens that toke on weed: Adults of all ages are into it as well. Mellowing out after a hard day at work, stressed to the max over problems at home, financial troubles, no time for you — is it any wonder people find marijuana a convenient and easy solution? Despite the fact that four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, it’s still a Schedule I controlled substance according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and illegal at the federal level. So, when you’re at a get-together this July 4th weekend and you smell that distinctively sweet smell of ganja, you’ll know that America’s primary illicit drug of choice is out and about. Be aware also that the driver in front, alongside, or behind you that’s weaving in and out of the lane may be high on pot. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that stoned pot-users wove around on the road just as much as drunk drivers did.

“Trippin’ Out” Takes Center Stage

MDMA (ecstasy), and a purer form called Molly, is a popular drug among young people, particularly those showing up at raves, in nightclubs and at other social gatherings. It is generally used more for its mild hallucinogenic properties than for its stimulant effects. Ecstasy is part of the hallucinogen classification that also includes other so-called “club drugs” such as LSD, methamphetamine, GHB, ketamine and Rohypnol. According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future study, MDMA (and the other club drugs) are holding steady in terms of popularity among high school students, who perceive use as less of a risk and say it’s fairly easy to obtain the drug. The 2013 NSDUH found that 751,000 first-time users of ecstasy, 69.4 percent of whom were 18 or older. Some 230,000 persons were under the age of 18 at time of first use. Average ecstasy age at first use is 20.5 years. As for using ecstasy over the Independence Day weekend, if there are raves, outdoor concerts, and gatherings of young people, there is a great likelihood that trippin’ out on something will be center stage.

LSD: Also Popular for 4th of July “Trips”

At music festivals across the country, more than a few attendees will be hallucinating with the illicit drug LSD. One recent Delaware music festival was the scene of police arrests for possession of hundreds of doses of LSD, along with hallucinogenic mushrooms and the synthetic marijuana drug called bath salts. The 2013 NSDUH found that 482,000 persons aged 12 or older tried LSD for the first time within the past year. Average age at first use is 19.7 years.

Mescaline, Mushrooms, Bath Salts and More

Other common drugs of abuse likely to be prevalent this year during celebration of our nation’s independence include mescaline, psilocybin (hallucinogenic) mushrooms, bath salts and flakka (both synthetic marijuana drugs), and the usual suspects: cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, oxycodone and other painkillers used non-medically, along with sedatives, tranquilizers and many other prescription drugs used to get high. By Suzanne Kane

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