There are many different types of substances, including alcohol, cannabis, prescription/non-prescription medications, and illicit drugs. It’s important to learn the facts about substances and substance use so that you can make informed choices & keep yourself safe.

Substances are commonly referred to as drugs, and they affect how your body and brain work. Some examples include:

• Alcohol (e.g., beer, coolers, wine, liquor, etc.)
• Cannabis (e.g., weed, pot, marijuana, hash, edibles, herb, etc.)
• Stimulants (e.g., nicotine, cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy, etc.)
• Opioids (e.g., morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl, etc.)
• Hallucinogens (e.g., magic mushrooms, acid, etc.)
• Inhalants (e.g., gas, glue, whippets, etc.)

People use alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs for a variety of reasons:
• Curiosity/Experimentation
• To feel good or have fun
• Celebration
• Boredom
• To cope with difficult feelings (e.g., stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.)
• Feeling pressured by peers or friends
• To avoid rejection
• TV, music, movies, or social media make it look cool and fun

How you feel while using alcohol, cannabis or other drugs can vary from person-to- person and from substance-to-substance. Some effects can be pleasant, unpleasant, or even harmful.

Short-Term Effects
When using a substance, you may experience:
• Feeling happy, ‘high’, relaxed, or even sad or angry
• Red, watery eyes
• Pupils larger or smaller than normal
• Reduced concentration, memory, and decision-making
• Slurred speech
• Impaired ability to drive safely (e.g., vehicle, ATV, snowmobile, etc.)
• Feelings of anxiety, paranoia, fear, or panic
• Feel dizzy or faint
• Nausea or vomiting
• Accidental injuries (e.g., falls, burns, near drowning, etc.)
• Accidently having too much (aka poisoning/overdose)

Long-Term Effects
Your chances of experiencing negative long-term effects increases if you use a substance often, over time, and before the age of 25 years:
• Trouble with memory, concentration, and learning
• Heavy use of some drugs and substances can damage your physical health and your organs, such as your liver, kidneys, & lungs.
• Mental Health problems like anxiety, depression, or psychosis. Your risk increases if you have a personal or family history of these conditions.
• Substance Use Disorder. Some people who regularly use alcohol, cannabis, or other substance may find it hard to control their use and keep using even though it is negatively impacting on there lives.

For more information, check out:
Substance use, Health Canada

Think Ahead. Always let someone know where you are. Alcohol, cannabis, & drugs impair your judgment, so take time before making important or risky decisions.

Eat Before & During. Eating food before and while you use alcohol, cannabis or other drugs can protect you from serious risks.

Drink Water. It’s important to stay hydrated. For every drink of alcohol, have 1 non-alcoholic drink.

Buy Safer. Always buy/get substances from licensed stores & use sealed products.

Stick Together. Stay with friends you trust & avoid going off alone.

Stick To One. Avoid mixing alcohol, cannabis, other drugs, or energy drinks.

Start Low & Go Slow:
• Keep track of how many drinks of alcohol you’ve had. Try to have no more than 2 drinks in any 3 hours. Set a limit for yourself & stick to it.
• If smoking cannabis, start with one puff & wait to feel the full effects before having more. If using edibles, use no more than 2.5 mg of THC at a time & wait at least 2 hours before having more.

Protect Your Drink: Keep it with you and only take drinks from someone you trust. If you’re a drink looks or smells different, ditch it!

Carry Naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. You can get a FREE Naloxone Kit by calling 811.

Plan A Safe Ride Home. Alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs impair your ability to drive. Ask a sober friend or family member for a ride, or plan to stay the night.

Only Time Sobers You Up. Coffee, cold showers, energy drinks, or food will not make you sober. You can still be impaired even if you don’t feel like you are, or even the next day.

Ask For Help When You Need It. If you see anything suspicious, anything that makes you uncomfortable, or if you need help, call a friend or family member. If it is an emergency, call 911.

For more information, check out:
How to take care of yourself when using substances, Kids Help Phone
The High Way Home?, Canadian Centre on Substance Use & Addiction

A substance poisoning or overdose happens when a person uses more of a drug (or multiple drugs) than their body can handle. There is no exact formula to determine HOW MUCH will be TOO MUCH.

It Can Happen to Anyone, Know the Signs:

Alcohol Poisoning
• Blue, cold, clammy skin
• Vomiting
• Passed out, won’t wake up
• Slowed breathing

Cannabis Poisoning
• Vomiting
• Dizziness
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Anxiety or panic attack

Opioid Poisoning
• Can’t wake person up
•Breathing slowed/stopped
• Choking or gurgling
• Pupils are very small
• Blue, cold, clammy skin

If someone you know experiences severe symptoms like those listed above, stay with them & call 911 immediately.

You can place them in the Recovery Position while waiting for help:

It is normal for people to be curious and experiment, but substance use can become a problem when it starts to negatively effect you and your daily life.

Know the Signs:
• Missing school or work
• Getting lower grades or marks at school
• Losing interest in activities that you enjoy
• Arguments between you and your parents or friends
• Spending a lot of money on substances
• Craving a substance or using despite negative effects
• Using a substance before or while at school or work
• Feeling isolated or alone because of substance use

It is important to look at the different ways alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs are affecting your life and seek help before it gets worse. Reach Out, We’re here to help.

For more information, check out:
5 ways to talk to a friend about their substance use, Kids Help Phone
How to talk to a friend or family member about drugs, Health Canada

If your concerned about a family member, friend, or your own substance use:
• Tell a trusted adult.
• Check out our Service Directory for a list of services & supports near you.
• Contact KidsHelpPhone: 1-800-668-6868 or text “CONNECT” to 686868
• You can also contact the HealthLine: 811.