A drug is any substance that changes the way our mind and/or body works. It can affect the way we think, feel and act.
In 2014, the cost of substance use in Canada – health care, lost productivity, criminal justice, and other direct costs – was $38.4 billion – or about $1,100 spent for every Canadian regardless of age. Almost 70% of the total costs were due to alcohol and tobacco¹.
Smoking causes about 45,000 deaths every year in Canada – nearly 1 in 5 deaths in Canada (2012) were attributable to smoking.²
Alcohol is the most common drug used by Canadians – about 4 in every 5 Canadians reports consuming alcohol. In 2015, alcohol was responsible for about 77,000 hospitalizations in Canada – slightly more than the number of hospitalizations from heart attacks.³
People use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons:
- To ‘fit in’ or because of peer pressure
- To cope with stress, emotions and other problems
- Because they feel exciting or risky
- To help relax or find pleasure
Youth are the most vulnerable to substance misuse because parts of the brain that control judgment and decision-making do not fully develop until their mid-20s.
Alcohol and tobacco are usually the first drugs that young people experiment with or use. Not all young people who try a substance will go on to have drug-related problems, but these substances create situations or environments that support continued drug use.4 Early use of drugs increases the risk of health consequences including addiction. Early prevention of alcohol and other drugs can go a long way to reduce the risks.
Think about your life and whether the substances you use are having a negative impact on you or the people around you. If you think you might have a problem with tobacco, alcohol or other drugs:
- Be kind to yourself
- Know how to get support and help
- Talk with your health-care provider – if you smoke, smoking cessation and nicotine replacement therapies are available
If you think someone you care about has a problem with tobacco, alcohol or other drugs:
- Be kind to that person
- Know how to have a conversation about substance use
- Know how to help and support that person
If you are a parent supporting a child:
- Be informed and educate yourself
- Talk with your kids about drugs
- Be a good role model. Help them make healthy choices
- Talk with your child’s health-care provider
- Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms (2007–2014). Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (2018)
- Up in Smoke: Addressing the Costs of Tobacco Use in Canada; Conference Board of Canada, January 11, 2018
- Alcohol Harm in Canada; Canadian Institute for Health Information
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health