Secondary Teens and Substance Use
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Secondary - October 2021
youth and substance use
Talking to teenagers about difficult subjects like substance use can sometimes be a challenge for parents. However, providing your teen with balanced information about substance use early on and often, can help them make informed choices when faced with making a decision. Creating a safe and receptive environment to begin a conversation with your teen can promote open and positive communication.  

But it can be hard to know what to say. It is best not to surprise kids with a big talk. Instead, let them know you want to have a conversation about substance use. 
Speak to them the way you’d like to be spoken to. Showing respect sends the message that you trust them to act responsibly, not just for your sake, but for their own as well.

Be honest and reasonable. Give them a chance to express their concerns and feelings. They may have been hoping for a chance to ask questions or check in about something troubling.

Let them know that your goal is to help them stay safe. Make sure they know that they can call you for help in any situation, no matter what.
Substance Use Harm reduction strategies
Research shows that harm reduction activities do not encourage substance use; in fact they are more likely than other methods to encourage people who use substances to start treatment.
In the Greater Victoria School District, we view harm reduction as a continuum with the safest harm reduction strategy being:

Avoidance moving to the concept of delaying use, and at the other end of the continuum, reducing use. 
Other harm reduction strategies can include: 
only using with others
using safe injection sites
testing substances
carrying Naloxone if around any potential opioid users
discussing options with a physician or substance use counsellor
further education and conversations about potential risks 

It is important to remember that addiction is a complex illness with many contributing factors and no easy solutions. Where to find help for problematic substance use
Opioids are depressant drugs with pain relieving properties. Opioids can also induce euphoria, which gives them the potential to be used recreationally. 

The most common Opioids are:  codeine, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and heroin. 

Short term side effects include:  drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, euphoria, difficulty breathing, headaches, and/or overdose.

Long term side effects can include:  increased tolerance, dependence, liver damage, worsening pain, withdrawal symptoms, and/or overdose.

Opioid overdoses can occur when an individual consumes more opioids than the body can handle. 

Symptoms of an overdose may include:
- being non responsive
- slow or stopped breathing
- choking or gurgling sounds
-  blue lips or nails
- cold or clammy skin
- tiny pupils  
The consequences of an overdose may be short term, particularly if lifesaving interventions such as Naloxone are used quickly for support, but there is also the possibility for long term brain damage or death.
Naloxone can save a life

Naloxone (pronounced na-LOX-own) is a fast-acting drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Naloxone can restore breathing within 2 to 5 minutes.
While naloxone is only active in the body for 20 to 90 minutes, the effects of most opioids last longer. This means that the effects of naloxone are likely to wear off before the opioids are gone from the body, which causes breathing to stop again. So it is important to call for emergency medical attention. Naloxone may need to be used again, depending on the amount, type, or how the opioids were taken (for example: oral, injection).  

Naloxone is available without a prescription and can be picked up at most pharmacies or local health authorities. It is available in an injection or a nasal spray format.
All students in Secondary Schools will have the opportunity to be trained in Noloxone at some time during the 2021-22 school year.  This is a voluntary opportunity for any students interested in gaining this first aid skill.  As a part of the PE 10 curriculum students will also learn about harm reduction strategies.
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 Adolescents, like other groups, may use opioids for a variety of reasons.

Some people use opioids for pain treatment or for temporary relief from anxiety, adverse experiences or difficult life circumstances.

Others use opioids to experience a feeling of euphoria or out of curiosity about drugs that are perceived as risky or out the mainstream; conversely, others may be using because it is accepted in their peer group.

Some users unintentionally expose themselves to opioids mixed into another type of drug they buy from an unregulated supplier.
Strategies for talking to youth about Opioids:

Educate yourself so you can answer questions

Become informed about substances commonly used by young people

Be a good listener

Stick to the facts - avoid scare tactics and  exaggeration

Focus on heart felt concerns

Discuss the concepts of harm reduction:  avoid, delay and reduce 

Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that can be prescribed for the treatment of acute and chronic pain, and it is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine, and 20 - 50 times more potent than heroin.

Legal fentanyl comes most commonly in a patch and liquid form and is administered in a hospital setting.

Illicit Fentanyl is a white, crystallized powder substance with no distinct odour. This powder is mixed with other drugs (i.e. heroin) to increase its potency, sold in its powder form, or pressed into counterfeit pills resembling various medications like Oxycontin, Percocet or Xanax
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid normally used as a sedative for large animals such as elephants. It is an analogue of fentanyl and can be 100 times more toxic than fentanyl. It looks similar to table salt - ingesting one or two grains can be fatal to humans.
the good samaritian drug overdose act
It is important for youth to know that they have legal protection under the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, if they are in the position to support someone who has been poisoned by opioid drugs.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act  applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing an overdose. The Act protects the person who seeks help, whether they stay or leave from the scene before help arrives. 
It also protects anyone else who is at the scene when help arrives. The hope is that the Act will help to reduce fear of police attending overdose events and encourage people to help save a life. 
Ending the Stigma
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Stigma matters because it can prevent people who use drugs from getting help. People who are stigmatised often feel ashamed, alone and judged. Together we can help end stigma.
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Alcohol is one of the oldest and most widely used substances in the world, and is used for religious ceremonies, social occasions, relaxation, self- medication and as a habit. 

Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine; it travels through the body to the brain, where is slows down the activity between nerve cells, operating as a depressant.
 The effect alcohol has on a person depends on their size, ethnicity, drinking experience, mood and the environment it is used in.

Binge drinking is defined as excessive consumption of alcohol (4 or 5 drinks, or more) in a short period of time.

Within Canada, 70% of youth ages 15 – 24 reported using alcohol in the last year.

Risk Factors for Problematic Alcohol Use:

Family members with substance use problems in past or present
Difficulty dealing with stress and challenges
Family conflict
Mental or physical health challenges that are not well managed
Difficulty fitting in at school or with peers
Stressful life changes

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning


Severe confusion
Vomiting and/or seizures
Blue colour to skin
Passing out repeatedly
Decrease in body temperature
Potential death due to slowed or stopped breathing or choking to death on vomit
A parent or guardian of a minor may provide alcohol only to their child in their home.

This exception does not allow for alcohol to be provided to any other minors who may be in the home.

If alcohol is served at a party, a host could be accountable for any harm guests may experience after leaving the premises (even when the guests are of legal age to drink).
Cannabis is the scientific name for the hemp plant, its leaves and flowers contain hundreds of chemical substances, and over 100 of these are known as cannabinoids.

THC is the most researched cannabinoid and is responsible for the way the brain and body respond to cannabis, including the high and intoxication. The potency of the THC in cannabis has increased from an average of 3% in the 1980‘s to around 15% today.

CBD is another cannabinoid, and is responsible for many of the plant's physical effects and has been used to treat anxiety, pain, inflammation, insomnia, nausea and epilepsy.  
Effects can be felt within seconds to minutes of smoking, vaporizing or dabbing marijuana. These effects can last up to 24 hours.  By ingesting or drinking cannabis, effects can occur within 30 minutes to 2 hours and last up to 24 hours.

Cannabis can be both beneficial and harmful to health. For instance, research shows that cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of some medical conditions such as pain, nausea and muscle spasms. Use can also be associated with psychotic symptoms and respiratory issues.

Short Term Effects: 

Short term effects (often include): euphoria, sense of well-being, relaxation, heightened sensory experiences, confusion, sleepiness, impaired concentration, heightened anxiety.
Short term effects (may include):  paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure.

Long Term Effects: 

Long term effects (develop gradually over time, with daily or weekly use that continues over weeks, months or years):  increased risk of addiction, harm to memory, difficulties with concentration and ability to think and make decisions.
October school poster

Cannabis and Driving

Studies of vehicle accidents around the world show that the drugs most commonly found in drivers involved in accidents (after alcohol) include:


Despite popular myth, driving after using cannabis is not safer than driving after drinking alcohol. Cannabis impairs you differently than alcohol but it still impairs.
Performance becomes even worse if drivers combine drugs, such as cannabis, with alcohol.
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