Substance Use - Alcohol and Other Drugs

Most young people who try drugs or alcohol do not develop substance use problems. For some, it can become a problem.

During your teenage and young adult years, you will likely be faced with decisions about drinking or using other drugs. Adolescence is a time for trying new things, and deciding whether to use alcohol and other drugs is a personal decision. The decisions that you make can have an impact not only on yourself, but on others in your life as well. Some young people will choose not to use substances, others will try them and decide not to use again, and some will continue to use.

Substances include:

  • alcohol
  • illegal or street drugs (examples include marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, or crystal meth)
  • prescription drugs which are used in a non-medical way (in a way not prescribed by a doctor)
  • over-the-counter medicines which are used for recreational rather than medical purpose

Using alcohol or drugs can affect young people's general health, physical growth, and emotional and social development. Many young people do not develop problems. However, if someone starts when they're young and uses alcohol or other drugs on a regular basis, they are more likely to develop problems later on. There are other factors which put a person at increased risk of developing substance use problems. These factors don't mean that a person will automatically develop a problem, but they do increase the risk.

Factors that increase risk of developing problems:

  • Family history of alcohol or other substance use problems
  • Difficulty coping with or managing stress and other problems
  • Problems at home
  • Having an untreated anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions
  • Difficulty fitting in at school, at work or with peers
  • Having a stressful life change or experiencing trauma

All substances have risks associated with them, and their use can negatively impact your current life and future dreams. Our goal is to help you better understand alcohol and other drug use, signs that they may be having a negative impact, and tips on how to reduce potential harms.  We think it's important for people who are considering using drugs, or who already use drugs to know what they are getting into.

Although alcohol is a drug, we have created a separate section for it because it is the drug that is most commonly used by young people, and its use carries a number of potential harms.


Learn more about alcohol use.

ALCOHOL USELearn more about drug use.