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Substance Misuse and Abuse
Substance Misuse and Abuse
Addiction Services of York Region

A substance is anything that can be taken which changes the way you act, think or feel. Human beings use substances such as, drugs, alcohol and prescription medication for many reasons. Some individuals misuse substances in order to address feelings of stress, grief, anxiety, depression or simply out of curiosity. Peoples' patterns of use and frequency vary. Some people may use a substance several times and never again, while others have a far more complex relationship with substances, and struggle to control the regularity and frequency of their use. If an individual's desire to use is connected with complex mental health or socio-emotional issues, substance use can become particularly problematic.

Student Substance Use Patterns

The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) is Canada's longest running survey monitoring student drug use, emerging drugs and other risky student behaviour. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) administers this anonymous survey every 2 years to grade 7-12 Ontario students. In 2013, 12 YRDSB secondary schools and a total of 746 students participated in this survey. The findings indicate that:

  • there is an emerging downward trend in student alcohol and drug use in the last decade;
  • alcohol remains the drug of choice;
  • 50% of students in grade 7-12 drink;
  • 3/4 of senior students consume alcohol;
  • binge drinking continues to be an area of particular concern;
  • 20% of all students and 40% of grade 12 students report consuming 5 or more drinks in one sitting, at least once in the month prior to the survey;
  • cannabis remains the illicit drug of choice;
  • 23% of students in grades 7-12 admit to using marijuana;
  • 40% of grade 12 students admit to using cannabis;
  • 2% of students are using synthetic cannabis also known as spice or K2;
  • there has been a notable​ increase in non-medical use of opioids or over the counter medications;
  • 10% of Ontario students have driven after using cannabis;
  • 4% of Ontario students admit to drinking and driving;
  • 1/5 of students report getting into a car with a driver who had been drinking; and
  • 14% report getting into a car with a driver who was high. This is a leading cause of death for young people in Ontario.

Drug and Alcohol Continuum 

The Drug and Alcohol Continuum is a tool that can be used to evaluate a person's level of use and the type of intervention or support that may be needed.​​​​

Where Do You See Yourself?

Misusing drugs and alcohol can be harmful.
Not Using
Trying It Out
Problem Use
  • Not using drugs or alcohol
  • Using medication as prescribed
  • Trying drugs or alcohol because you are curious
  • Feeling pressure to fit in
  • You may never use again
  • Using sometimes:
  • with friends, after school/work or
  • on the weekend


  • Using substances regularly
  • Experiencing difficulty in controlling your urge to use
  • Using more to get the same effect
  • Starting to impact your life negatively
  • Using regularly and often
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling angry depressed, anxious
  • Feeling physically ill when you are not using
  • Always thinking about it
  • Life revolves around using


Drug Guide For Parents
Understanding Addiction, Alcohol: Low Risk Drinking Guidelines and Problem Gambling

If you or your child is struggling with drug and/or alcohol use, help is available.  

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