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A resource to start the conversation
about drug use and abuse.

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What should I know
about drugs?

.::: What is
a drug?

Drugs are a part of our life and come up in our every day conversation, yet do we really know what they are? Sure, we know some drugs and medicines help us when we’re sick, but there are a lot of other drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, date rape drugs and more.

Quite simply, a drug is a chemical that produces a therapeutic or non-therapeutic effect in the body. Health Canada describes a drug as “any substance, other than food, that is taken to change the way the body and/or mind function.” 1

.::: Why do some people use drugs and alcohol?

We can never know all the reasons people decide to use drugs or alcohol, but here are a few:

  • To cope with emotional pressure - like stress at work, or depression after a break up with a partner
  • To cope with social pressure – to fit in with friends, or to feel confident at a party
  • To celebrate life events - weddings, holidays, or even Friday nights out with friends
  • They have a physical or psychological dependence
  • To see what the drug is like, to satisfy their curiosity.

.::: Signs
and Symptoms

You may not be able to tell if your teen is using drugs or alcohol. Many of the things that signal drug or alcohol usage may also be signs of normal teenage behaviour. For example, most teens like sleeping in; they want more independence and spend a lot of time with their friends rather than with the family.

It's important to understand your teen's normal pattern of behaviour because these signs and symptoms could be indicating other issues like bullying, or illnesses like depression that may require medical attention.

It’s important to talk to your teen about the things that are going on in his or her life. If your teen is using drugs or alcohol, there may be changes in his or her behaviour. B elow is a list of possible changes you might notice with drug and alcohol use. Please use your discretion and speak to a professional if you are uncertain.

  • Changes in mood or behaviour
  • Household items or money missing
  • Drop in grades and declining attendance at school
  • Use of perfumes or deodorants to hide odors
  • Spending more time alone in bedroom or away from home
  • Interest in hobbies or other regular activities is decreasing
  • Change in friends
  • Less willing to talk about friends or activities
  • Increased requests for money
  • Weight loss
  • Suspicious or strange objects in his or her possession
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Red or irritated eyes
  • Walking unsteadily
  • Less involved with home and family life
  • Slurring words or difficulty speaking.

1 Health Canada (2000). Straight Facts About Drugs and Drug Abuse.

Related link: Tips For Parents


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Revised: February 28, 2012


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