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Substance Use and Misuse
Substance Use and Misuse
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.


As a school board, we are committed to creating safe, healthy and inclusive learning and working environments.  This commitment is embedded in our Multi-Year Strategic Plan that sets our priorities and guides our decision making as a board.  We are dedicated to working closely with families to advance student achievement and well-being.

On October 17, 2018, it became legal for individuals 19 and older to buy, use, possess and grow recreational cannabis. It remains illegal for anyone under the age of 19. This is the same as the minimum age for the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Ontario. Regardless of age, cannabis is not allowed on school property or at school-related events at any time.

It is illegal for anyone regardless of age to smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis:

  • at school, on school grounds, and all public areas within 20m of these grounds
  • on children’s playgrounds and public areas within 20m of playgrounds
  • in child care centres, or where an early years program is provided
  • in places where home child care is provided – even if children aren’t present*

*Please note that these are the provincial regulations and by-laws could be different at a municipal level

There will be consequences for students if they are believed to be in possession or under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or cannabis. Suspension will be considered. There are exceptions if the medicinal use of cannabis is outlined in the student’s Health Care Plan. If a student gives alcohol or cannabis to anyone under the age of 19, the school will contact police, suspend the student and consider expulsion.

Through both the Ontario elementary and secondary Health and Physical Education curriculum, students will learn how to make informed decisions that support their health and well-being.  Students will learn about the risks associated with substance use, misuse, and addictive behaviours, including alcohol, cannabis and illegal drugs, in a developmentally appropriate manner. Additional information about curriculum connections can also be found on the Ministry of Education website, including the Cannabis Information for Schools and School Boards.

In YRDSB, we want families and students to be informed about the facts of cannabis legalization. To support this learning, you may find the following resources helpful. You can also request a hard copy through the school office.

Cannabis: What Parents/Guardians and Caregivers Need to Know

Cannabis Talk Kit: Know How to Talk With Your Teen

We will continue to provide students with information and support to make positive and healthy decisions.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the school’s administration.

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 Continu​um

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


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

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