A focus on health and healthy living in Canadian culture means that many young people are choosing not to experiment with, or use illicit drugs. Teens are still growing and developing, and using drugs can harm brain development. Because illicit drugs are uncontrolled, it is impossible to know what exactly is in them. Some people are at higher risk, including younger teens and anyone struggling with a mental health issue. Some drugs pose a greater risk as well, due to potency and unknown substances within them. Drug use has harmful physical effects, and prolonged drug use has harmful effects for everyone.
Most young people who try drugs do not develop substance use problems, but the risk is there, especially with certain types of drugs, and it’s worth getting the facts.
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Drug use becomes a problem when:
- It starts to have a negative impact on your life, at school or work, or with family and friends,
- You experience withdrawal symptoms;
- You have difficulty cutting down;
- You find you need more of the drug to get the same effect;
- You feel like you have to use drugs to feel good; or
- It becomes your main way of coping with life’s difficulties and stresses.
Signs of risk factors to look for
Stress Hacks.ca does not condone or promote drug use, as using drugs to get high is a high-risk and often illegal behaviour.
Certain risk factors can put you at a higher than average risk of developing a substance use problem. While the presence of risk factors doesn’t automatically mean that you will develop a problem, the chances are higher when more risk factors are present, including:
- Having difficulty/not fitting in at school or work;
- Having difficulty coping or managing with stress and other difficulties;
- Having difficulty with decision-making;
- Experiencing a stressful life change, personal stress or trauma;
- Problems at home;
- Having difficulty meeting expectations set by yourself or by others; and
- Having untreated anxiety, depression or another mental health condition.
Harmful forms of drug use include:
- Non-medical use of medicine, other than as prescribed by a doctor;
- Using pills for a different purpose than what the doctor intended;
- Using “club drugs” at raves, nightclubs, bars and parties; and
- Using street drugs (cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal meth or heroin).
When does drug use become a problem?
Any of the following signs may indicate that you or someone you know may have a problem with drugs. You may find that you:
- Feel the need to get high to help you escape from your worries or problems;
- Use drugs as your main source of entertainment and fun and have stopped doing other activities altogether;
- Spend a lot of time obtaining drugs, using them or recovering from their effects;
- Get money to buy drugs through negative actions such as lying or stealing;
- Start having problems at school, work or in your relationships as a result of using drugs; or
- Need to have increasing substance amounts in order obtain the same “high.”
If you can say yes to several of these statements, drugs may be a problem for you – consider , visiting “Getting Help” for information on finding help in your area, or go to “Need Help Now?” at the top of this page.
The hacks listed on the next page will also give you lots of good tips to reduce or cut out drug use.
Seek emergency help immediately if you are having suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming yourself or others.
You should also seek help right away if you:
- Have depressive thoughts along with your drug use
- Are experiencing prolonged trouble sleeping
- Family and/or friends have stated your drug use is a problem
- Self-help efforts (such as cutting down) have not helped
- Anytime you find someone unconscious after using drugs (health and safety first))
Choose not to use, or cut down on drug use
In spite of the risks, some young people do experiment with various types of drugs. Here are some hacks to cut down on drug use:
- Choose not to use drugs. Sometimes others will try to pressure you to use drugs when you don’t want to. Here are some hacks you can use in that situation:
- Say you are taking a break from using drugs. You don’t have to explain your reasons. Just repeat that you are taking a break.
- Say you are on medication and can’t use drugs.
- Take on the task of being the designated driver.
- Make arrangements to participate in activities and go places where drugs will not be used. Step back from the people you’ve been hanging out with, connect with new influences and reset your mindset.
Other Hacks include:
- Use drugs in moderation;
- Take a holiday from your drug use;
- Decide ahead of time how much you will use, and stick to your plan; and
- Don’t try to keep up with others who are using. Know your own limit and stick to it.
Keep yourself safe if using drugs
- Be careful any time you are offered drugs. Do you know the person well? Are there extra risks involved, such as being by yourself or being with people you don’t know?
- If trying a substance for the first time, take a small amount and see what the effects are. Are there clues to how the drug might affect you? How is it affecting others who use it? (Keep in mind there are no accurate predictors as to how a drug will affect someone, as the effects can be different for everyone.)
- Know who you are buying from, and try to avoid buying drugs from a stranger. Also keep in mind it is unlikely that the seller knows the origin and ingredients of the drug.
- If you decide to get high, be sure you are with people you trust and who know what to do in an emergency
- Don’t go by what others say about drugs – do your research first and find out the facts. Also remember that the effects of a drug are different for everyone.
- Try to avoid spontaneous drug use and always consider the risks.
- Don’t share needles, pipes or any other equipment.
- Do not drive while under the influence of anything – drugs or alcohol.
- Avoid using different drugs (including alcohol) in combination at the same time.