Sobriety at Summer Parties: Staying Off of Substances When Others Do Not

Summer Party BBQ

A developing body of research indicates that the summer brings more first-time drug use, drinking, intoxicated driving, and drug and alcohol-related accidents and injuries. For recovering addicts who may find themselves around people drinking or using drugs during summer, it’s important to have strategies in place to navigate potentially difficult social situations.

What the Data Shows About Summer and Substance Abuse

According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, summertime poses a higher-than-average risk for drug initiation. That research found over one-third of people who try LSD, ecstasy, and cannabis for the first time do so during summer, despite summer comprising just 25% of the year. The researchers attributed the higher likelihood of drug use during summer to young people being out and about more, around others who may offer them drugs, and in larger social settings, such as music festivals, the beach, concerts, and popular social gatherings or events.

Giving drugs at festival

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about three million Americans use marijuana for the first time each year, one million use cocaine for the first time, and more than 700,000 use LSD for the first time. About the same number use ecstasy for the first time each year. Between marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and ecstasy, there are about 5.5 million new drug users each year, at least one-third of whom begin using during summer. For individuals already in recovery and actively implementing strategies to protect that recovery, it’s important to recognize that summer is a hotspot on the calendar for drug use and drinking, particularly for first-time users who may also be more prone to accidents and injuries.

Ten Things to Do to Protect Your Sobriety During Summer

Protecting oneself from a relapse may be more challenging if one is at social gatherings or around friend groups where others are drinking alcohol or using drugs. The following are ten strategies one can implement in their day-to-day life to build strength in their recovery:

1). Identify triggers and guard against them. Part of preventing relapse means recognizing what “triggers” a relapse. For some recovering addicts, it may be a person; for others, it may be a place or an activity. Knowing what triggers substance abuse is a huge first step in staying off drugs because it allows one to avoid those triggers in the future.

2). Recognize warning signs. Negative self-talk, returning to addictive thinking patterns, self-defeating behavior, less-than-rational thoughts, and beginning to make sense of drug or alcohol use are all warning signs that set the stage for relapse.

3). Avoid old routines. The day-to-day life choices one made as an addict were not working for them then, so why return to them now? Changing one’s life for the better involves halting drinking and drug use. It also means not frequenting the same establishments, not spending time with the same people, eating better, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.

Soccer friends

4). Spend time with people who abstain from drugs and alcohol. If one is at a party or social gathering where people are drinking or using drugs, it’s still likely there are others there who are abstaining. One should spend time with those individuals rather than those who may try to peer pressure one into drinking or using drugs.

5). Don’t be afraid to seek support. There’s safety in numbers, and even if one has been clean from drugs and alcohol for several years, it may not be a bad idea to join a support group during the summer months, especially if one is noticing they are increasingly being exposed to mind-altering substances at social events, in the home, or at work.

6). Maintain a structured schedule. A big part of recovery is putting order and stability into a life that was unstable for a long time. One can further protect themselves from relapse risks by maintaining a regular schedule, filling one’s free time with positive, healthy activities, and keeping disorder and negativity out of one’s life.

7). Work toward a healthy life. Drinking and using drugs take a toll on physical and mental health. Conversely, eating well, getting sufficient rest, and exercising daily help promote good health and a clear mindset, making one less likely to relapse.

8). Remove anger and shame from day-to-day thinking. Angry outbursts and feelings of shame can bring one down emotionally and mentally, lowering one’s defenses and making it easier for negative self-talk to set in.

9). Set clear boundaries. When one is at a social gathering during summer, and they are offered drugs or alcohol, it is completely okay to say no. Better yet, one can work toward preempting such interactions by telling the hosts that one won’t be using mind-altering substances at the event. It’s good to set boundaries early on.

Woman refuses to drink due to driving

10). Have a backup plan. When saying “no” does not seem to work and one is under intense pressure to drink or use drugs, it also helps to have a backup plan or a “way out.” Whether it’s a family member waiting at home, a personal obligation one must attend to, or a busy day at work tomorrow, one can always find an important reason to leave.

Summer is a beautiful season to get out and about and engage socially with friends, family, work colleagues, and community members. But if one feels their sobriety is not yet stable enough to be around others drinking or using drugs, avoiding such social situations may be a better idea. There will always be another summer.

Recovery Is Worth It

Sometimes, individuals who kick a drug habit or an alcohol addiction will find themselves in situations later in life where their sobriety feels threatened. Having backup plans, coping strategies, and the skills to navigate those situations is critical to creating a lifetime of drug-free and alcohol-free living.

For those who are still struggling with drugs and alcohol and for those who have relapsed, it’s worth it to create a real, lifetime recovery. If you know someone still using drugs and alcohol, please assist them in finding quality treatment today.


  • JGIM. “Summer as a Risk Factor for Drug Initiation.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2019.
  • NSDUH. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018.



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.