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Youth and Mental Health Addictions

Other drugs

​​What is a drug?

A drug is any substance that causes a change in people’s mental, emotional or physical state. Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are commonly used legal drugs. Prescription drugs such as painkillers, sleeping pills, and anti-depressants have their place in healthcare when used properly or under medical supervision.

However, abusing these drugs and using illegal drugs like cocaine, LSD, amphetamines, and heroin can cause problems in people’s lives.

Why do people take drugs?

People start taking drugs for many reasons: out of curiosity, for pleasure, to fit in, or to cope with boredom, anxiety, lack of confidence, or other social issues.

How many teens use illegal drugs?

In a 2016-17 survey of Alberta students in grades 7 to 12, 16.0% said they had used cannabis (which was illegal at the time) and 5% had used other illegal drugs (like cocaine or amphetamines) in the year before the survey.

What is drug abuse?

Drug abuse means taking one or more drugs in a way that puts you or others at risk of getting hurt. Here are some examples:

  • taking a lot of a drug at one time
  • taking a prescription drug without a prescription
  • taking a prescription or over-the-counter drug in a way it’s not meant to be used
  • taking several drugs (including alcohol) at the same time
  • using drugs too often
  • using drugs for a long time

The same survey of Alberta students in grades 7 to 12 showed that in the year before the survey, 5% of the students said they used medicine like sleeping pills, pain medicine, or cough syrup to get high.

What are the risks of drug abuse?

There are many risks:

  • health problems
  • poisoning (overdose), which can cause serious injury or even kill you
  • having to take more of the drug to get the same effect (tolerance)
  • needing the drug just to feel normal (physical dependence)
  • feeling like you can’t get by without the drug (psychological dependence)
  • relationship problems with family and friends
  • problems at school or work
  • legal or
  • money problems

Problems related to using drugs can start quickly or develop over time. Often, family and friends that don’t use drugs can tell someone has a drug problem long before the person who's using drugs can.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you know might have a drug problem, we’re here to help.

For more information and to find an addiction services office near you, please call the 24-H​our Helpline.

Where can I find out more?

Visit Substance Use: Common Drugs to learn more about:
  • Anabolic Steroid Use
  • Barbiturates
  • Bath Salts
  • Caffeine
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • Date Rape Drugs
  • Gravol
  • Heroin
  • Inhalant Use
  • LSD
  • Magic Mushrooms
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • PCP
  • Ritalin
  • Talwin® and Ritalin® (T’s and R’s) ​

Current as of: September 29, 2020

Author: Addiction & Mental Health, Alberta Health Services