Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Understanding Substance Use Educators Guide

Schools play an important role in promoting the health and well-being of young people. Besides supporting academic learning, schools also provide a safe environment for the personal and social development of youth and for youth to establish lower-risk substance use behaviours.

Educators like you are uniquely positioned to influence students’ health and well-being. When talking about substance use, the conversations can be difficult, and not all educators feel comfortable or ready to have them. We designed the Understanding Substance Use Educators Guide and accompanying video modules as a way to increase your knowledge and to provide resources to get you ready and feel more confident to talk with youth about substance use.

The educators guide and the accompanying video modules have been developed for education professionals working with youth from Grades 6 to 12. This includes teachers, guidance counsellors, social workers, coaches, administrators and other staff who may benefit from these resources.

Using the guide will help educators like you understand substance use and provide you with the knowledge and tools to support your students and other educators. It has not been designed for classroom activities or to replace curriculum on these topics.

Watch the Understanding Substance Use Video Modules

Here are the five video modules in the Understanding Substance Use video series. The series covers the following topics:

  • Understanding Substance Use
  • Understanding Stigma
  • Understanding Cannabis Vaping
  • Understanding Alcohol
  • Understanding Impaired Driving

Watch each module while using the Educator’s Guide as a supporting resource. The guide provides in-depth information on key concepts, exercises for self-reflection or group discussions, and resources for further reading.

The video modules and educators guide can be used for independent or small-group learning.

Understanding Substance Use

This first education module explains the spectrum of substance use, problematic substance use and substance use disorder; strategies for reducing harm and how to build resilience. The module also explores the connections between brain development, adverse childhood experiences and substance use.

Understanding Stigma

This second education module covers what stigma is and how to recognize substance use stigma. It explains the different types of stigma and how stigma can affect people seeking and accessing care. The module also explores why words matter and strategies educators can use to reduce stigma.

Understanding Cannabis Vaping

This third education module covers cannabis and vaping among youth in Canada, cannabis vaping products, the harms and risks associated with vaping cannabis, and strategies you can use to reduce the risks for youth who vape cannabis.

Understanding Alcohol

This fourth education module examines what alcohol is and how it affects individuals. It also explores different alcohol products, the health risks and harms associated with drinking alcohol, and ways to reduce risk.

Understanding Impaired Driving

This fifth education module focuses on impaired driving in Canada. It explains how substances affect driving performance as well as the risks and consequences of driving while impaired. The module also covers the legal penalties for impaired driving and how you and other youth allies can support youth to lower their potential risks.

CCSA codeveloped the Understanding Substance Use video series and the accompanying Educator’s Guide with the Durham District School Board, Durham Catholic District School Board and Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board to help educators learn about substance use.

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