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Substance Use Tips

These tips are about substance use and how to identify, cope, support and recover.

When in recovery from substance use issues, remember that healing isn't linear & relapse isn't failure.

Worried about a friend's drug or alcohol use? Talk to them about it when they are sober, calm, and in a neutral space.

If you use substances, do a self-inventory: “Why do I use? How is it working for me? Is it a problem for me?”.

People respond to drugs in different ways, so don't base your substance use choices on the experiences of others. 

If you're beginning recovery, think about what obstacles are in your way. What could be your first step? 

Recovery can be overwhelming. Here's a video of how one young person copes with those overwhelming days.  

H.A.L.T.= Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? These feelings trigger substance use for some.

Think about what's important to you (family, friends, school, health, job, pets, etc.). Is your substance use affecting them? 

Can't identify supportive people in your life? Make it homework to seek out helpful people or community groups/agencies.

Vocab check: How do you use the word “addicted”? The term is often used incorrectly and can be stigmatizing. 

Problematic use of drugs isn’t necessarily the same as dependence/addiction. Learn the signs.

Trying to limit your substance use? Make a list of triggers & see if there are any you can avoid (hanging out with certain friends).

Everyone has a different relationship with substance use. Think about what yours is - why and when do you use?

Prescription drugs may seem safer but they cause more deaths than heroin + cocaine combined. Don't adjust the dose without a doc!

Keep yourself busy to avoid using drugs/alcohol out of boredom. Start checking activities off this list/add your own!

Substance use is a continuum. Think about where you sit on this spectrum and why.

Coffee might seem harmless, but remember that caffeine is still a drug and can trigger anxiety and sleeplessness.

If you're taking prescrip meds, research how they interact with other substances. Alcohol may reduce their effectiveness.

Quitting smoking is tough without support. Here are some programs that can help:

DYK- alcohol is a depressant which slows down your brain, breathing and your heart rate. Learn more at

If someone is unconscious/passed out & still breathing, put them in the position shown in this short video

Many substances can lead to overheating/dehydration. If you use, try to monitor your body temp & drink lots of water.

Check out the latest Ontario Student Drug Use survey and results:

Take turns with your friends being sober at parties to act as driver/decision-maker in case of emergency.

Have a friend trying to cut out drugs/drinking? Be supportive. Hang out with them in a drug-free environment.

Feeling disconnected can lead to substance use. What are your passions? How do they support wellness?

Fact: Not all young people use drugs/drink! Remember this when faced with “peer pressure”.

If you’re going to use substances, take a minute to plan ahead to be safer about it:

Learn hands-only CPR to help you feel more equipped for emergencies that can arise from substance use.

Mindfulness/meditation/yoga can teach tolerance of challenges & emotions instead of “escaping” or turning to an addiction to cope.

Using drugs carries risk, but there are things you can do to be safer about it.