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Substance use

Some important facts and statistics

Substance use refers to taking mood altering substances such as drugs, alcohol or tobacco. It can also refer to activities that you do to change the way you feel, like gambling. Some people can consume alcohol and drugs without any negative consequences, but sometimes it becomes problematic and even addictive. Here are some warning signs to tell when drugs and alcohol have become a problem:

  • When you know you’ve had enough but can’t stop
  • When it affects your relationships in a bad way
  • When you do things that you wouldn’t do when you’re sober
  • When you put yourself or others at risk
  • When getting and taking substances becomes more important than your basic responsibilities, such as using your rent or food money to buy drugs

Substance use doesn’t only refer to drugs and alcohol. Gambling, sex and even food can become a problem if you use them to change the way you feel. Some signs that these behaviours have become addictive include:

  • Having frequent unprotected sex
  • When your sex life puts others at risk or hurts them
  • When it feels like a need instead of a want
  • When you keep eating even though you’re full
  • When you spend all of your money on a hope that you’ll win it back
  • When these behaviours take up time that’s supposed to be spent doing something else

The facts:

  • Aboriginal people are twice as likely to develop substance use issues than non-Aboriginal people
  • Aboriginal people are three times more likely to die from drug use than non-Aboriginal people
  • Children of parents with drug and alcohol addictions are almost three times more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children of parents who aren’t substance abusers
  • Children of substance-abusing parents are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, depression, self-mutilation, suicide, panic attacks, truancy and sexual promiscuity, and they are more likely to replicate the drug and alcohol abuse problems they witnessed in their parents than children of parents who aren’t substance abusers (National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1999)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities and diagnoses that result from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The impact and effects of FASD vary. Watch this video about living with and preventing FASD. Effects and severity of FASD depend on many things including:

  • How much alcohol was drunk
  • How often a pregnant person drank
  • The stage during the pregnancy when alcohol was consumed
  • Overall health of the person who is pregnant

No amount or type of alcohol during pregnancy is considered safe. The facts:

  • In Canada, more than 3,000 babies a year are born with FASD
  • Approximately 300,000 people are currently living with it
  • Research suggests that the occurrence of FASD is significantly greater in Aboriginal populations as well as in rural, remote and northern communities

Prevention, identification and intervention efforts are key to improving this situation. A large number of pregnancies in Canada are unplanned, meaning that a large number of women in the early stages of their pregnancies – not knowing they are pregnant – may consume alcohol and unknowingly cause damage. If you suspect that a family member may have FASD, talk to your doctor about having him/her diagnosed. An early diagnosis can lead to interventions which will minimize the impact of FASD. Millions of people recover from the powerless feeling of addiction, and you can too. There are many ways you can get help, including:  

  • If you have taken drugs or alcohol and think you need medical help, go to your nearest emergency room or call 9-11 immediately
  • Talk to a Kids Help Phone counsellor anonymously and free of charge: 1-800-668-6868
  • Consider attending a 12-step meeting such as Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
  • For a list of treatment centres, visit the Health Canada website.

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