Using substances can:
- Make it hard to control your actions
- Affect your health and development
- Change how you make decisions, how you think and how quickly you can react
For some people, alcohol or other drug use may turn into a substance use problem.
Every time someone uses substances they are taking a risk, which may include serious harm or even death. An overdose happens when someone takes a toxic amount of a substance or mix of substances. Anyone can overdose.
People of all ages and backgrounds are being affected by an increase of illegal drug overdoses linked with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl has been found in cocaine, crack, MDMA (ecstasy), crystal meth, heroin, and in fake OxyContin, Percocet and Xanax. This list of drugs containing fentanyl is constantly changing, this is part of the risk in using substances.
It is now legal for anyone over the age of 19 to possess, buy or use cannabis (marijuana, pot or weed) in B.C. It is illegal for anyone to use cannabis on school property or other places where children and youth commonly spend time (i.e. playgrounds, beaches, parks). It's still illegal for anyone under 19 in B.C. to possess, buy or use cannabis without medical authorization.
Vaping devices heat a liquid into a vapour or aerosol. The user then inhales the vapour or aerosol. Vapour products are always evolving and contain various chemicals and levels of nicotine. Some products use nicotine salts which have a far higher concentration than cigarettes.
It is well known that there are many health risks related to smoking cigarettes. Vaping is often recommended as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. However, Health Canada has said that the long-term health impacts of vaping are unknown. Yet, there is enough evidence to justify preventing youth and non-smokers from vaping.
Tobacco and vaping products fall under two acts:
- The Federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, regulates the accessibility, advertisement and sale of vaping products
- The B.C. Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act, regulates the use, sale and display of tobacco and vapour products in B.C.
The Ministry of Health administers the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act.
The act bans:
- The sale of all tobacco and vapour products to anyone under 19
- Smoking and vaping in schools and on school grounds
Drinking alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the body. When a person drinks alcohol, it slows down their brain and how it works with the rest of the body. It is harder to think clearly, react quickly, and be co-ordinated (use fine motor skills). Drinking alcohol also influences mood and judgement. Drinking can be damaging to healthy brain development.
How alcohol affects a person might be different based on:
- How often they drink
- How recently and what they have eaten
- Their sex, size, and metabolism
- If they are mixing substances (including medications)
- What they are drinking (strength of drink, amount, how quickly they are drinking)
It is illegal for anyone under 19 to buy, possess, or drink alcohol. Despite this and the potential health risks, some youth may still choose to drink alcohol. In these cases, reducing the risks of harm to health, relationships, and overall well-being is important. See these Tips for Safer Alcohol Use from Foundry to understand ways to reduce harm.
Know the risks and signs of overdose
Recognizing the risks and signs of an overdose and knowing how to respond can save lives. Fentanyl and other opioid overdoses slow down breathing so much that a person doesn’t get enough oxygen, and this can be fatal.
Naloxone is a medication anyone can learn to use to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Learn how and when to use naloxone, receive tips on talking honestly and openly about substances and overdose, and find supervised consumption and overdose prevention services in your community.
If you suspect an overdose call 9-1-1 and administer naloxone
- How to Use Naloxone
- The Good Samaritan Overdose Drug Act provides some legal protection for people who experience or witness an overdose and call 9-1-1 for help
If you have a non-emergency health concern
Call 811 to speak with a nurse any time of the day or night.
- HealthLinkBC: Alcohol & Drug Information Referral Service
- Mental Health and Substance Use Supports in B.C.
If you or a friend needs help dealing with a problem
Reach out to an adult and get help.
- Foundry: Substance Use
- Harm Reduction Program: Toward the Heart
- Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre: Substance Use
If you're a parent, teacher or another supportive adult
Talk with young people about using substances. Be a sensitive and respectful listener. Talk openly and honestly about the effects of substances. Ask questions about what kids are hearing, seeing or have learned. Talk about why people use substances and the potential consequences. Create an open and judgement-free environment where it's safe to ask questions. Look for natural opportunities to discuss the topic.
Educate yourself. Learn about commonly used substances. Find out how they work, what their street names are, and the signs of being under the influence. Be prepared to provide answers in a way that that's easy to understand. If you don’t know the answer, offer to find it together.
Stick to the facts. Explain how lethal fentanyl can be and that it's impossible to know which drugs contain it without using drug checking services. Use information from reliable sources and avoid scare tactics and exaggeration. Make heartfelt expressions of concern for safety, health and wellness.
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health: The Blunt Truth
- Drug Cocktails
- Foundry: Substance Use
- Here to Help: You and Substance Use (PDF, 3.8MB)
- McCreary Centre Society: Clearing the Air: A youth-led research project about vaping
- McCreary Centre Society: Clearing the Air: Infographic
- Parent Action on Drugs: What’s with Weed?
- Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction: Cannabis
- Canadian Public Health Association: Cannabasics: Fact sheets
- Canadian Public Health Association: Cannabasics: An Introductory Online Learning Series
- Health Link BC: Cannabis
- Teenmentalhealth.org: Cannabis
- The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2018: Preventing Problematic Substance Use in Youth
- Drug Free Kids Canada
- Drug Cocktails
- The Drug Policy Alliance: Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs (Note: US-based statistics and legal information)
- Fraser Health: Overdose resources for schools and parents
- Health Link BC: Alcohol and Drug Use in Young People
- Healthy Families BC: Teen Behaviour
- Here to Help BC
- Cannabis Talk Kit: Know How to Talk with Your Teen (PDF)
- Fraser Health: Start the conversation about overdose prevention
- Health Canada: Consider the Consequences of Vaping
- Health Link BC: Talking to Kids, Teens and Adult Children
- Healthy Families BC: Tricky Conversations
- Here to Help: Parent Guide for Talking to Teens About Substances
- Letter to Parents and Guardians from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer ~ talk to your youth about substance Use (PDF)
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: How to Talk with Your Kids about Vaping (Note: US-based statistics and legal information)
- Alberta Health Services: Teachers & Schools – Addiction and Mental Health
- Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research: Helping Schools (includes iMinds lesson plans)
- Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy: Sensible Cannabis Education Toolkit
- The Drug Policy Alliance: Beyond Zero Tolerance: A Reality-Based Approach to Drug Education and School Discipline (Note: US-based statistics and legal information)
- Government of Canada: Pursue Your Passion
- HealthySchools BC: Dry Grad Guidebook for BC (PDF)
- Joint Consortium for School Health: Vaping Resource for Schools (PDF)
- Nova Scotia: A Question of Influence Curriculum Supplement (Grades 7-9)
- Stanford Medicine: The Tobacco Prevention Toolkit (Note: US-based statistics and legal information)
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health: Vaping 101
- Western Centre for School Mental Health: Preventing Problematic Substance Use Through Positive Youth Development
- Vancouver School Board: Supporting and Connecting Youth (SACY) Resources