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Addiction/Substance Abuse

Children and in particular teenagers may be involved with a variety of drugs, both legal and illegal. Experimenting with a variety of drugs is common.

Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age increases the chances of using other drugs later. Some will try them, some will use occasionally but unfortunately others will develop a dependency and cause harm to themselves. Twelve is now the age when children begin to try alcohol and marijuana.

Teens use drugs for a variety of reasons: curiosity; because it feels good; to reduce stress; to feel grown up; to fit in. Drug use includes* alcohol; tobacco; prescribed medications; inhalants; over-the-counter cough, cold and sleep medications; stimulants; marijuana; club drugs; depressants; heroin and steroids.

* Drug identification information can be found on the Waterloo Regional Police Service website, 

Who is at risk?

Teenagers that are at risk of developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those:

  • With a family history of substance abuse
  • Who are depressed
  • Who have low self-esteem
  • Who feel like they don’t fit in

Warning Signs of Substance Abuse

Physical – health complaints, red and glazed eyes, lasting cough, fatigue
Emotional – personality change, mood swings, irritable, irresponsible behaviour, poor judgement, low self-esteem, depression, general lack of interest
Family – starts arguments, negative attitude, breaks rules, withdrawal from family, secretive
School – decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy, discipline problems
Social – new friends who are not interested in school or family and make poor decisions, problems with police, changes in clothing and music


Early education is critical and is often received at school. Professional consultation with a mental health professional is also crucial. No one treatment is the answer. All the individual’s needs must be met, not just the substance abuse, since the substance abuse is usually a symptom of a more serious issue, such as depression.



Useful resources/links for ADDICTIONS/SUBSTANCE ABUSE:

Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics and Alateen Kitchener-Waterloo – 519-896-5678
Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous and Alateen Cambridge – 519-658-8222
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) - 
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse - 
Canadian Mental Health Association -
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) –
Children’s Mental Health Ontario -
Drug and Alcohol Registry of Treatment (DART) – 1-800-565-8603 or
Golden Triangle Area Narcotics Anonymous - or 519-881-3887
Grand River Hospital Withdrawal Management -

or 519-749-4318
Mayo Clinic -
National Institute on Drug Abuse -
Narcotics Anonymous – 1-800-573-0920 or
Ray of Hope – Youth Addiction – 519-743-2311 or
Science and Management of Addictions -
St. Mary’s Hospital Counselling Services – or 519-745-2585
Waterloo Regional Police Service – 519-653-7700 or 519-570-3000 or  - Drug identification information -