A lot of what we hear about young people using drugs seems scary. And with so much information out there about the overdose crisis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed about everything that’s going on. Wanting to protect the children and young people around you is a natural response—but how can you do that effectively?
Talking with young people openly and honestly about substance use is a great way to start. Here are a few ways you can learn, connect and support.
Did You Know?
According to the most recent BC Adolescent Health Survey, about 16% of high school students in BC said they had tried using a substance other than alcohol, marijuana or tobacco. That’s compared to 44% who had tried alcohol and 25% who had tried marijuana. About 18% of youth had tried smoking tobacco, while about 21% had tried vaping. These numbers have been decreasing over time, with fewer young people trying drugs or using them frequently.
Learning more about substances from reliable sources can help you talk with young people with confidence and accuracy. It’s impossible to know what’s in a drug purchased from an illegal source. But organic drugs like marijuana and mushrooms are unlikely to be cut with toxic substances, while substances such as heroin, fentanyl, cocaine or methamphetamine are more likely to be contaminated.
Drug-checking services can help people identify what’s in a substance before using it and resources like DanceSafe provide information about specific drugs.
You can also learn about the decriminalization of people who use drugs in BC here. This new policy doesn’t apply to people under the age of 18, and it also doesn’t apply on school property. Learn more about the difference between legalization and decriminalization.
Open, non-judgmental conversations are one of the most important ways we can protect kids from harm—not only from the risks of substance use, but also from other things that may be impacting them, like stress or bullying at school. Through conversation, we can help young people understand more about substance use so that they can make informed, responsible decisions.
To start with, talk with the young people in your life about what’s going on with them in general—ask honest questions about their interests and how they’re feeling, and engage with their responses. If you start by building a positive relationship where young people feel they can speak honestly with you, it may help make difficult conversations easier.
Starting the conversation might seem hard, but there are different techniques and approaches you can try. If an opportunity comes up to talk about substance use, such as a news story or social media post you’ve seen, ask how they feel or what they think about it. Make sure they know you’re asking from a place of love and genuine concern, and try to be open and non-judgmental about their answers.
There are resources to support youth and families in BC. Wellbeing.gov.bc.ca can help you find supports for young people, and there are also programs for families such as Parents Like Us (online resource) and peer support through organizations like FamilySmart and FoundryBC. Knowing what resources are available means you’ll be able to access them when you need to—or you could even do some research together.
Showing 4 Resources
Offers health and social services for young people to access mental health care, substance use services, youth and family peer supports, primary care, and social services. Services are provided together in a single place to make it easier for young people to find the care, connection and support they need.<br /> <br />Centres provide safe, non-judgmental care, information and resources in a youth-friendly space and work to reach young people earlier - before health challenges become problematic.<br />
Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre
Provides mental health and substance use information, resources, help with mental health system navigation, and peer support to children, youth and their families from across BC. Support is also available to people of all ages with eating disorders or disordered eating concerns.<br /><br />Support is available by phone, email or in person at the centre. Services include educational events for parents, caregivers, and school and health professionals.
4555 Heather Street, Vancouver, BC
Free programs that help B.C. families and caregivers who are parenting children and youth facing mental health challenges.
Offers an online support network to support youth and young adults in crisis. Volunteers offer risk assessment, emotional support, referrals to community resources, and help with creating safety plans. The network includes chat, text and a youth resource directory. Email counselling with a professional youth counsellor is also available.
If you or someone you know uses drugs, it’s more important than ever to know the ways to stay safer.
The Difference Between Legalization and Decriminalization
Get informed about BC's new policy to decriminalize people who use drugs and how it impacts you.