Alcohol and drugs
To better understand
Teenagers like to try new things, which is one of the reasons why they might experiment with alcohol or drugs for the first time. Using these substances creates new sensations and changes the way they think and act. Teenagers who drink or use drugs do so mainly out of curiosity, for fun, to relax, or for stimulation. They might also use substances simply because it is something that is forbidden or because they want to be like their friends or act like adults.
Many teenagers do not drink or do drugs at all and, generally, those who do use substances do not do so often and will not become addicted. However, there are always health and safety risks when it comes to drinking and doing drugs. The main risks for teens are accidents and injuries and having non-consensual or unprotected sex.
Drinking every day, or even every week, is a bad habit for teenagers. Binge drinking and using several substances at the same time also greatly increases the risk of something bad happening. This type of behaviour can be harmful to a teenager’s mental and physical health and brain development, not to mention increase their risk of addiction.
• 45 % of teenagers have never drank alcohol or used drugs.
• 33 % have only drank alcohol.
• 2 % have only used drugs.
• 20 % have drank alcohol and used drugs.
• Teenagers in grades 10 and 11 are five times more likely than teenagers in grades 7, 8 and 9 to have drunk alcohol or used drugs.
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Check out our information sheets for more statistics, key facts, and solutions for families, schools, and communities.
To better support
How to prevent problems with substances
- Talk to your teenager about substance use, its effects on their health, and the risks involved. It is best if you do not lecture them or try to scare them.
- Help your teenager find ways to have fun and relax without alcohol or drugs.
- If your teenager drinks, ask them in a non-confrontational way about when they drink, with whom, how many times a week, how much, etc.
- Have discussions with your teen about the reasons behind their substance use and how they feel about alcohol and drugs.
- Encourage them to wait as long as possible before trying alcohol or drugs for the first time. For example, tell them that they are too young right now to drink or to even taste alcoholic beverages.
- Tell them that they do not ever have to drink or take drugs if they do not want to, or that you prefer that they do not. It is their choice, but if they choose to drink or take drugs, there are certain rules they must follow to reduce potential risks. For example, never drinking or using drugs when they are alone and never mixing alcohol and drugs or different types of drugs.
- Together, discuss and set clear rules for alcohol and drug use, both inside and outside of the home. These rules can be adjusted as they get older.
- Be clear that they cannot drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs and help them identify other ways to get around if they are impaired.
- Take an interest in what your teen does in their spare time and who their friends are.
- Encourage them to talk to you if they have a problem and to ask for help when needed.
- Help your teen identify the things that make them feel stressed and come up with ways to relieve their stress.
- Talk to your teen about the laws governing the possession, use and sale of substances (e.g., legal age for purchasing and use, impaired driving, drug trafficking and distribution, etc.).
- Encourage them to join activities that interest them, to set goals, to see friends, to have hobbies, to get involved at school or elsewhere.
- Limit access to alcohol and other drugs (including prescription medications).
- Take time to reflect on whether you could stand to improve your own habits for your own well-being.
- Having a relationship based on trust and respect will help your teen feel comfortable opening up about their drinking and drug use.
- Help your teen find their passion and pursue their goals: they will quickly realize that alcohol and drugs could hold them back!
- The way in which you use substances or talk about alcohol and drugs makes a big impression on your teenager.
- Even though selling alcohol and drugs to teenagers is illegal, the opportunity may arise for them to try these substances. They need to know the risks involved so they can make the right decisions for themselves.
- Identify ways to improve your overall health as a family. Problems with substance use are often linked to mental health issues.
- Encouraging your teen to wait as long as possible before using substances for the first time, restricting their access to alcohol and drugs, and setting clear rules are all ways to limit the problems associated with substance use.
Resources and practical tools
1. For support:
Do you have concerns about your teen’s development or behaviour? Do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:
2. To learn more:
Latest updates : February 2020