Substance Use, Addictions, and Related Behaviours

As students move through the school system, they will undoubtedly be affected by issues related to substance abuse and addictions, whether through their own experiences or those of family members, peers, or friends. Given the numerous substances available in our society, from prescription drugs to alcohol to contraband drugs, it is important to continue conversations with students throughout the secondary grade levels.

Education can be critical in helping prevent substance abuse. Parents, caregivers, guardians, and educators all have key roles to play in educating students about substance use, misuse, and abuse. Alcohol and tobacco are the drugs most readily available to Ontario students, and smoking is the primary cause of preventable illnesses, disabilities, and premature deaths in Canada. The learning expectations related to substance use and abuse address these facts by outlining the effects of drugs—including prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol—and the consequences of using them. This knowledge is integrated with the development of a variety of living skills including adaptive skills (e.g., stress management) and communication skills (e.g., refusal techniques) that help students make and maintain healthy choices.

This content area also addresses compulsive behaviours (e.g., online gambling or excessive screen time) that can lead to addictions. It includes discussions of the relationships between the use of substances and mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Students are introduced to strategies and support systems that can help them find healthy, substance-free alternatives for coping with stressful situations.

Theory into Practice - Consider having students explore physical activities and other healthy strategies that can help them reduce stress and cope with difficult situations.