Knowledge is Power

This blog hopes to impart a little knowledge about drugs and their impact. Knowledge empowers us because it helps us make better decisions. Decisions you make about drugs could literally mean life and death. This information has been developed with you in mind. Given how prevalent and accessible drugs are today, it is important to have the right facts to help you make informed decisions about using drugs when and if an opportunity arises.

While the use of drugs is not a new concept, the type of drugs are new. Modern drugs have increased potency, include a wide variety, and have an ease of availability. Both legal and illegal drugs seem to be everywhere. Drugs can either save a life, or end it. You do not have to do drugs regularly to experience life-altering or potentially fatal consequences. One night of drinking and driving under the influence can lead to disability or death; a dose of cocaine could cause a fatal heart attack. Each of these tragic outcomes are preventable with a little bit of knowledge.


Speaking up

You’re with family and friends and someone offers you a drink, a joint, or maybe a pill – that’s how it can start. You have a choice to say yes or no. What do you do? It helps to stop and take a moment to understand what you’re taking and why you’re taking it before you say yes. Are you experimenting? Trying to fit in? Wanting to avoid thinking about something stressful at home or in your life?[1]  

Saying “no” to friends or family can be tough. It helps to think about possible ways to avoid using before the time comes. Here are some examples of passing on the opportunity to do drugs:

  • “No thanks. I have to get up early tomorrow.”

  • “I’m good. I’ve had quite a bit already.”

  • “Just not feeling it tonight.”

  • “I’m okay, thanks. I promised my friend I’d watch out for her tonight.”

  • It's also okay to use "No thanks", as sometimes people appreciate straightforward honesty: "No thanks, I don't want any." There are ways to counter specific arguments. Check out this site for additional suggestions or this site for girls.


Talking it over

Talking about drugs can sometimes feel super awkward. Whether you have questions or you’re concerned about a friend or family member, it can be hard to figure out who to turn to for support or answers. There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting information out there. Who’s the best person to ask? It’ll depend on your comfort level, but here are some good options:

Your parents:  As you’ve moved through school, maybe you’ve started to share a bit less with your parents and started talking with your friends more. But your parents were once teens too and they can understand the pressures that you might be facing. You might feel really awkward bringing up the subject of drugs and that is okay. Its very likely your parents will want to have a conversation about drugs too. They also may know other people in the community to talk to, such as a doctor or counsellor. Many teens are confused about what their parents’ stance on partying and drugs is, so ask questions like “How late can I stay out?” and “Can I call you if I ever end up somewhere I don’t feel comfortable?” It might be helpful to ask straight out:  “How would you react if I used drugs?”

Your counsellor or teacher: If you know a particular adult at school whom you trust, talk to them! Counsellors especially know of different resources within the community, and will be able to guide you to someone else if they don’t have all of the answers. There are even ways to bring up the topic in class, such as in a bio class. For example, if you’re studying the heart you can ask how a certain drug affects it.

Another adult in your life: There are a lot of really great people around us. Maybe you’re close with your hockey coach or your camp counsellor. These people may not be able to answer all your questions, but they probably care about you and will help you to find the answers you’re looking for.

Your Friends: They’re probably the first people you turn to with questions, but they might have as many questions as you do. However, talking with a good friend who will listen and be supportive can be very helpful. They can also help you decide how to talk to your parents or another adult. The more we bring up our concerns about drug use, the more open the conversation can become.

When you try and decide who to talk with, there are three questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Is my happiness and health important to them? You want someone who cares about you and your well being.

  2. Do I admire them? Whomever you talk with about drugs should be someone you want to emulate because their advice will be a reflection of who they are.

  3. Will they listen to me? You should find someone who can listen non-judgmentally to your questions and concerns without jumping straight to advice-giving or lecturing.

If you have concerns about a friend’s or family member’s use:

Maybe you’ve noticed your friend skipping class more, being less likely to hang out, or they’ve become moodier. Maybe your sibling is not home very often or you’ve seen them use substances when your parents are out. Whoever it is, it’s difficult to get that conversation started when you’re concerned about someone else. It’s important to start a discussion when the person is relaxed and the two of you are just hanging out. Ask questions like, “Hey, I missed you in class today. Are you doing okay?” or “I’ve noticed you’ve been going out a lot lately and I’m worried”. You can even be straightforward about your concerns: “I’m worried that you have been using alcohol or drugs lately”

Listening to their side of the story is important. Don’t use a judgmental or accusing tone. Let them know that you’re concerned and that you’re always available to talk. Having someone who is supportive is important. Remember, you can’t “fix” them, but you can give them some guidance on who to talk to and resources that they can access.


Fast Facts

  • A heroin user who spends $50 a day on the drug could save $180,000 over a decade, were it not for their addiction. A cocaine abuser with a $75-a-day habit would save $250,000 over ten years.[2] 

  • 1 in 10 Canadians 15 years of age and over report symptoms consistent with alcohol or illicit drug dependence.[3] 

  • 60% of illicit drug users in Canada are between the ages of 15 and 24.[4] 

  • In Canada one in every 16 visits to the ER were related to alcohol use.[5]

  • Adolescence is a critical period both for starting to smoke, drink or use other drugs, and, as a result, for experiencing more harmful consequences.[6]

  • If you have addiction in the family or a family history of trauma and mental health or behavioural problems, you are at greater risk of developing an addiction.[7]

  • When it comes to tobacco,there is good news. The Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (2016) found declines in both the numbers of students who had ever tried smoking and current smokers. The percentage of students who smoke tobacco fell to about 3 per cent in 2014-15 from 4 per cent a year earlier.[8]


  1. Kuntsche, E.; Knibbe, R.; Gmel, G.; Engels, R. Why Do Young People Drink? A Review of Drinking Motives. Clinical Psychology Review 2005, 25, 841-861.

  2. Buggle, Annabelle. "After 40-Year Fight, Illicit Drug Use at All-Time High." The Huffington Post., Web.

  3. "Health at a Glance." Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. 27 Nov. 2015. Web.

  4. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA). (2007). A Drug Prevention Strategy for Canada’s Youth. Ottawa, ON: CCSA.

  5. Thomas, G. (2012). Levels and patterns of alcohol use in Canada. (Alcohol Price Policy Series: Report 1) Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

  6. Crews, Fulton, Jun He, and Clyde Hodge. "Adolescent Cortical Development: A Critical Period of Vulnerability for Addiction." Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 86.2 (2007): 189-99. Web

  7. Nordqvist, Christian. "Addiction Risk Factors." Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 4 Jan. 2016. Web.

  8. Canadian Press. "Canadian Teens Are Smoking Less Tobacco, but Marijuana Popular." 14 Sept. 2016. Web.