Parents - Alcohol and Other Drugs

What substances are youth using most often in Ontario?

  1. Alcohol (68%)
  2. Energy Drinks (40%)
  3. Cannabis (37%) 
  4. Binge Drinking (32%)
  5. Electronic Cigarettes (19%)
  6. Non-Medical Pain Relievers (11%)
  The above statistics are based on Grade 12 students in Ontario (CAMH OSDHUS 2017) 

Other Youth Trends in Ontario...

  • Drinking or using cannabis while driving is still an issue.
  • Being a passenger with a driver that has drank or used drugs is also a concern.
  • Perception of availability of alcohol/drugs is high.
  • 15% of students report being offered, sold, or given drugs at school in the past year.
  • One in ten report being drunk or high at school.

Kids who learn about alcohol and other drugs at home are up to 50% less likely to use, than kids who don't. 


Understanding why young people use alcohol and drugs

  • Peer pressure - Young people may give in to pressures from other kids (friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc.) to try drugs. They may use a drug to feel like part of the crowd, or to act grown-up.
  • Pleasure - Some teenagers say they take drugs to feel good.
  • Curiosity or Experimentation - At first, teenagers may be tempted to try a drug to find out for themselves what it is like. Usually people who use a drug for this reason do not continue use for long periods of time.
  • Boredom - If they lack outside activities and interests after school, young people may want to try something new and exciting. The 9:00 to 3:30 routine may be as boring to children as the 9:00 to 5:00 routine is for many adults.
  • Self-esteem - Young people, as well as adults, often use drugs to try to feel more confident about themselves. Drugs seem to make them feel more important and powerful.
  • Parent Modeling -seeing a parent use alcohol or other drugs. You're always a role model.
  • Sexual Identity - Facing isolation, alienation and discrimination from a homophobic society is stressful; escaping from this is one of the main reasons why people in our communities use alcohol or other drugs.   
  • Coping with stress - Many young people have not fully developed their problem-solving skills. Some of them use drugs to help cope with problems at school, in the family, and with social relationships.
  • Escapism - Drugs appear to make things better than they really are. Problems don't seem as real or important.
  • Rebellion - Since most adults do not approve of drug use among children, young people may use drugs to rebel against parents or teachers.
  • Mental illness - Drug use may be an indicator of underlying mental illness

(Source: Health Canada Website, 2009)


Learn how to talk with your teen about cannabis - Drug Free Kids Canada Cannabis Talk Kit. 

Keeping the lines of communication open can make a big difference in preventing your teen's drug use.

Read Drug Free Kids Canada's Cannabis Talk Kit to help start the conversation now.



Talking with your teen about cannabis doesn’t have to be awkward. Watch the first video in Partnership For Drug-Free Kids' special series for parents that will help you set the stage for an easier conversation with your teen about pot or any other negative influence.

Cannabis- How to Answer: "Would you rather I drink alcohol?  Weed is so much safer."

Prescription Drugs

What is Medication?

  • Medications include prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin and herbal preparations.
  • Medication is hazardous waste and must not be thrown out in the garbage or flushed down the toilet.

Why is it Important to Regularly Clean out Your Medicine Cabinets?

  • Using expired medication can decrease the effectiveness of the medication, cause dangerous side effects, or cause potential negative interactions with other medications you are currently taking.
  • Prescription drugs can be stolen and sold – the youth population is an especially high-risk group who can obtain medications for recreational use from your medicine cabinet.  The 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey reported 10% of grade 7-12 students used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.  The #1 place they reported getting these prescription drugs was from the home.   

What can you do to Reduce your Risks?

  • Take medications only as prescribed.
  • Do not share medications with others or use someone else’s medicine.
  • Keep medication in a safe and secure location.
  • Keep track of the quantity of medication in your home.
  • Dispose of expired or unfinished prescriptions at your local pharmacy.

Watch the "Chiccah" Video by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada 

Youth are a particularly vulnerable population for prescription abuse and the #1 place they get these drugs is from a family member’s or friend’s medicine cabinet. Make sure you dispose of unused or expired medications at your local pharmacy and lock up any medications that are in your home.  

Check out the public awareness campaign from Drug Free Kids Canada about prescription drug misuse by kids. Your child already has so much from you, don't let them have your prescription drugs as well. Secure your meds today. 
Watch "The Path of the Pill" Video by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada

Youth are a particularly vulnerable population for prescription abuse and the #1 place they get these drugs is from a family member’s or friend’s medicine cabinet. Make sure you dispose of unused or expired medications at your local pharmacy and lock up any medications that are in your home.  

Read and Print the "Youth and Prescription Painkillers - What Parents Need to Know" pamphlet to learn more about your youth:
  • What Prescription opioids are
  • How and why young people misuse these drugs
  • The risks of use
  • How to recognize signs of a problem in youth
  • What you can do
  • Where to get help

PIER Survey

In a local questionnaire by the Peers, Information, Education, Resources (PIER) Project that was administered to youth and adults, questions were asked about:

  • Perceptions of who youth talk to about drugs
  • How comfortable each group is talking to the other about drugs
  • Are youth pressured to use drugs and by whom

In general the PIER Project results corresponded with what is currently in the literature around youth drug use and youth/adult    communication about drugs.

Family Meals

The PIER Project asked survey respondents how often they ate together as a family because there are indications in the literature that family mealtime is potentially a protective factor in the lives of adolescents. Eisenberg, et al. (2004) suggest that eating meals as a family has benefits for young people above and beyond their general sense of connection to family members and that these benefits may apply to a broad range of health domains. In their research they found that benefits applied to such specific behaviors as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, where family meals correlated negatively with use of these substances. The local survey found that about 60% of our respondents report eating together as a family at least four times a week.

Who Youth Talk to About Drugs

Although youth mainly like to talk to other youth about drugs, Kelly et al. (2002) argue that there is a robust body of research indicating that the influence of parents is the most underutilized tool in preventing youth substance abuse. They report on several studies
that demonstrate youth from families with frequent, open (bidirectional) and positive communication are less likely to become involved in drugs. Highet (2005), in his study of how parents respond to young people talking about alcohol and cannabis, found communicating and negotiating openly seemed to be effective in helping young people to develop and sustain a sensible relationship with alcohol.
In the PIER survey, both youth and adults agree that youth mainly talk with their friends about drug use. However, adults claim to be much more comfortable talking with youth about drugs compared to how youth feel talking with adults. Highet (2005) argues that ways of supporting parents so that they feel able to discuss their children’s actual or potential drug use openly should be found.

What Makes the communication Between Youth and adults About Drugs Comfortable

The local survey found that what youth are looking for in conversation with adults about drugs is a calm, non-threatening response. They also felt that a good relationship needs to be established before the conversation. Harsh, controlling approaches and passive, resigned tolerance from parents seemed to be less effective than openness when talking with youth about drug use.  Keep communication active by planning 5-minute conversations about substance use in general, weekly.

Are Youth Pressured to use Drugs

In an interesting paper on the development of recent sociological approaches to drug use, which takes into account the cultural context in which young people encounter drugs, Pilkington (2007) argues that the notion of ‘peer pressure’ has been displaced by
‘normalization’ which envisages recreational drug use as one expression of consumer-based youth cultural lifestyles. In a large study of American youth, Terry-McElrath et al. (2009) found that the top four reasons youth gave for using drugs were social/recreational including ‘to get high’ and ‘to have a good time with friends; coping with negative affect including ‘to relax’ and ‘to get away from problems’; compulsive use including ‘because I’m hooked’; and drug effect which included ‘to decrease’ or ‘to increase the effect of some other drug(s)’. Finally, Allen et al. (2003), in their meta-analysis of studies on the influence of parents and peers in the choice to use drugs, found that peers, siblings and friends are greater source of influence than parents on substance use. However, parents do exhibit an influence in the reduction of substance use. In the PIER survey they found that youth report feeling less pressured to use than adults think they do. Both youth and adults agree that if pressured, it is friends who are doing the pressuring. Youth see stress as more of a reason to use than do adults.

Parent Resources

Read and Print the  “Families Rule!” pamphlet (PDF 46KB) to help start the conversation with your kids about alcohol and other drugs.

Read and Print the "Think About Partying" booklet to learn about the pressures facing teens today:

  • Driving
  • Energy Drinks
  • Party Pressures
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs
  • Healthy Relationships 
Read and Print the "Think About It" booklet to learn more about your youth:

  • What's going on with them?!!
  • So what's a parent to DO?!!
  • Working through difficult situations
  • Listen
  • Can't I just ground them until they're 19?!!
  • What about the rest of us?!!
  • Five golden rules of discipline
  • More information
Read and Print the Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) Parent Action Pack Resource "Are You Prepared to Help Your Teen Make Good Decisions? Stats, Facts and Talking Points About Alcohol and Other Drugs" 

The Parent Action Pack educates parents and caregivers on:

  • How teenagers think and how to have a positive influence
  • Alcohol and other drug facts
  • How to talk to your teen


Watch the "Talking to your Teens about Alcohol and Other Drugs" 6-part video series.

       In this video series you'll find out more about:

  • Talking to your teen about alcohol and other drugs.
  • Factors that put your teen at risk for alcohol and other drug use.
  • Signs of alcohol and other drug use in teens.
  • Risks for teens of using alcohol and other drugs.
  • What to do if you suspect your teen is using alcohol or other drugs.
  • Setting boundaries and consequences for your teens regarding alcohol and other drugs.


Talking with Teens about Drugs and Alcohol

Factors that put Teens at Risk for Drug and Alcohol Use

Signs of Drug and Alcohol Use in Teens

What if you Suspect your Teen is using Drugs or Alcohol

Setting Boundaries and Consequences for your Teen regarding Substance Use

Risks for Teens of Using Drugs and Alcohol

Linked with permission from the Middlesex-London Health Unit

Other Parent Resources...

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