Education about substance use is essential to help students develop the necessary skills and knowledge to make healthier choices. Classroom teachers have a unique opportunity to positively influence the lifestyle choices of their students through role modelling, knowledge, and teaching.
Substance use occurs along a spectrum ranging from no use at all to experiencing a substance use disorder.
The Connection Between Mental Health and Substance Use
Youth have identified that they use cannabis and other drugs to enhance their social experience and to cope with stress and mental health issues. Regular and early use of substances including alcohol and cannabis in adolescence can harm the developing brain, and is also linked with behavioural, physical and mental health issues.
Educators play a key role in healthy student development. All students, including those who are already using substances, can benefit from learning how to cope with stress and anxiety. It is important for teachers, coaches and other trusted adults to be ready to talk with youth about substance use and mental health problems. For more information on mental health and how you can support your students click here [link to mental health literacy page].
Using the Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School framework, schools, school boards, parents and community partners can work together to develop healthy school environments that promote and support student well-being. Information below has been organized following this framework.
Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Level Up (Grades 1 – 12)
Level Up is an Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) resource which includes activities to help children and youth develop living skills and health literacy through the lens of well-being in relation to substance use.
OPHEA Teaching Tools: Cannabis Education Activity Plans (Grades 5 – 12)
These elementary and secondary level activity plans have been designed to support educators in providing students with inquiry-based activities to address the topic of cannabis with the Substance Use, Addictions and Related Behaviours curriculum expectations.
Talking About Series (Grade 7 – 12)
This educational resource addressing cannabis, tobacco, vaping, and waterpipes includes a set of activity guides to help facilitate critical discussion with young people in a fun and informative manner. This resource aligns with the 2015 H&PE Curriculum.
The High Way Home? (Grades 10-12)
This interactive web site developed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) guides users through real life scenarios where they must make decisions about cannabis use and driving. Youth focus groups were consulted in the planning stages of the web site development and content addresses key findings from research conducted by CCSA on Canadian youth perceptions on cannabis.
School and Classroom Leadership
Legalization of Recreational Cannabis – Learn more about recreational cannabis and the steps you can take to protect youth.
The Cannabis Education Resources – These resources provide educators and administrators access to evidence-informed information and activities about cannabis to help students develop the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices.
Lifesaver Program – This program has been developed to comprehensively train any non-medically prepared individual, who might be in the position to respond to an opioid overdose, in the use of Naloxone Kits containing the opioid antidote, naloxone.
Prescription opioids, including fentanyl: What educators need to know – School Mental Health Ontario and CAMH have created this info sheet to inform educators about opioids, how to prevent and reduce the risk of opioid use, and the signs of an overdose.
Youth Mental Health and Addiction Champion (YMHAC) – The Youth Mental Health and Addiction Champion (YMHAC) Initiative aims to improve the health and well-being of children and youth through a focus on mental health promotion, stigma reduction, and substance misuse prevention.
School Wide Campaigns
- National Addictions Awareness Week (3rd week of November)
- Consider the Consequences (vaping)
- Know More: Opioid Public Awareness
- Pursue Your Passion (Education section focused on cannabis but interventions are applicable to preventing use of any substance)
Social and Physical Environments
Public Health is mandated to enforce the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA), 2017, within its jurisdiction of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties which includes school grounds. To learn more about Tobacco Laws and Enforcement visit our Tobacco Laws anbd Enforcement page, contact the Tobacco Talk Line at 613-966-5513 or 1-800-267-2803, ext. 600, or email the Tobacco Talk Line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For incidences of smoking/vaping tobacco, E-cigarettes, or cannabis on school property, or within 20 metres of school property, please complete the School Incident Report form to report the occurrence to our enforcement officers. This report also applies to witnessing the sale of tobacco, cannabis or e-cigarettes on, or near, school property to those under 19 years of age.
School Board Policies
School boards can set policy that influence the social & environmental norms students experience. Individual schools should speak to their school boards about whether they can develop individual school policies.
Policies that include “possession” language are desirable as they go above and beyond the Smoke Free Ontario Act by not allowing tobacco, vapes, or other substances on school property or at school-related events.
The following is an example of an environment administrative procedure: Alcohol, Tobacco, Vaping, Cannabis, and Drug Free Environment
Which is supported by a prevention-focused administrative procedure: Drug, Cannabis, Alcohol and Tobacco: Standards and Education
Home, School and Community
Strategies for Parents to Prevent or Delay Teen Substance Use – A guide with six parenting strategies to prevent or delay teen substance use.
Cannabis Talk Kit: Know how to talk with teens – Drug Free Kids has create this resource to provide parents with practical tips on how to talk to your teen about cannabis.
Drug Free Kids – Resources for Parents – Provides information for parents and educators to support conversations with teens about cannabis (edibles), alcohol, opioids and vaping.
Talking Pot with Youth: A Cannabis Communication Guide for Youth Allies – This resource provides information and a set of exercises to engage youth in meaningful discussions and conversations about cannabis. This guide takes a harm reduction approach and provides practical approaches to talking with youth about cannabis.
Fentanyl Fact Sheet for Parents and Students – Learn more about fentanyl and how to prevent and reduce the risk of opioid use.
Vaping: Myths & Facts – Learn about the common myths that youth may have about using vapour products, along with some facts to help engage them in meaningful discussion about the harmful effects of vaping.
Vaping: Products & Ingredients – Learn more about the range of vaping products that students are using.