The term "drug" refers to any substance that is taken to change the way the body and/or mind functions (for example: alcohol, Ritalin, Ecstasy and marijuana). Two terms we often hear when talking about drugs are substance abuse and addiction.
When someone uses drugs in a way they are not intended to be used, obtains them from illegitimate sources, uses more than the recommended dosage or when drug usage affects their daily life/activities/ relationships negatively, it's referred to as substance abuse.
However, a drug addiction refers to when someone engages in regular, long-term drug use despite knowing the risks of doing so. The user may have a psychological dependence or physical dependence and experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not consume the drugs within a certain period of time. When someone continues to use drugs over a period of time, they may develop a tolerance to that drug; in other words, their body becomes used to the drug and it requires a larger dose to achieve the same effects.
Most drugs can be broken down into three categories:
People may use drugs for a variety of reasons, such as:
Drugs can be broken down into 4 main types:
Legal drugs include drugs that are regulated yet legal to consume, when done so within the limits of the regulations. While these products can be consumed legally, they can still produce undesirable effects on one's health, body and social life. We have also included products that have real-life uses, and were never intended to be consumed to achieve a high. For more information on specific legal drugs, click below:
Prescription drugs are drugs that are regulated by the Federal Government of Canada under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act (the regulation system for pharmaceutical and over the counter products such as cough syrup, pain killers, etc.). For more information on the prescription drugs mentioned below read this fact sheet.
Illegal drugs are usually produced (grown or manufactured) for sale on the street and used mainly for recreational purposes. They are often chemical products or other substances that when ingested, produce a mind altering affect. For more information on the illegal drugs mentioned below, read this fact sheet.
Illegal synthetic drugs refer to drugs that are man-made, often designed to mimic the effects of other illegal drugs. Most are created by mixing common and/or illegal substances in specific doses. For more information on the illegal synthetic drugs, read this fact sheet.
If someone is asking you to try drugs, you can:
It's never easy to deal with pressure to try drugs. If your friends won't drop the issue, you may want to consider trying to find a new group; one that has similar interests to you. For more tips on how to deal with the pressure to try drugs, visit the National Anti-Drug Strategy Website.
If you are worried that you or someone you know may be addicted to a drug or are currently abusing substances:
Talk to a school guidance counsellor, doctor, health care professional or a parent. If you do not feel comfortable talking with any of them, call the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), a completely free and confidential resource for youth. Or, to find services available in your province/territory, check out: DrugsNot4me.