- Mental Health
- Substance Use
- Healthy Living
People have used substances to change their mood, thinking, or behaviour for thousands of years. Some people believe that it is natural to want to alter their state of consciousness. That is why children spin around in order to feel dizzy. The substances that people use include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, cannabis (marijuana) and others which may be legal. It also includes others that are legal but regulated, for example cigarettes or morphine. Some people choose to use substances that are illegal such as heroin or cocaine. Many substances that are now illegal were once legal and easily available. Some like heroin were advertised as good for you. We won’t get into the legal issues here, but it is important to know how a substance can affect you and when it can become a problem.
There is always some risk to using a substance. Even caffeine can be a problem if you drink too much. These risks are greater for children and young teens.1 It can be especially risky for young people under 16 to use substances because their minds and bodies are still developing. Substances may harm a young person’s development.
Young people use many of the same substances as adults, for many of the same reasons. But some youth say they use substances for these reasons:
There is a lot you can do to prevent substance use. Start by thinking about your own patterns. Your child is likely to use substances in the same way as the adults in their lives. Most parents can handle their child’s experiments with substances without outside help. But if you need help understanding or communicating with your child, talk to their doctor or school counsellor.
For information on types of substances that are often abused, look in the “Substances” section on the left of this screen.
1 See Youth and Drug Use from Here to Help
2 See information on Concurrent Disorders for more information about substance use and mental illness