Substance Abuse and Addictions

What is the difference between Substance Use and Substance Abuse?

Substance use: A vast majority of drugs and alcohol can be used without their use leading to abuse or addiction. Youth sometimes use substances to express their independence and autonomy. This use should not be automatically equated with “substance abuse”. Most youth who use substances do not develop problem use or dependency.

Substance abuse: Substance abuse or addictions are a result of the continued use of drugs, substances, or alcohol despite repeated negative effects on the users and others. Substance abuse is usually part of a much larger problem, such as problems at home, problems at school, personal stress, or trauma.

Some personal factors play a role in increasing the risk of substance abuse. These include mental illness, low self-esteem, personal or social problems, and lack of skills required to resist social pressure. Connectedness and resilience are key protective factors in preventing substance abuse.

Connectedness is having a sense of belonging, and having strong and meaningful relationships with family, peers, and mentors.

Resilience is the quality that makes people capable of dealing with problems and responding positively to life events.


What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs around – it is so common that many people do not even think of it as a drug. Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system. While most people can drink socially, some people cannot control the amount of alcohol they consume. This can lead to serious problems.

In fact, consuming lots of alcohol in a short period of time, or binge drinking, is very dangerous and can cause acute alcohol poisoning or an overdose. Remember that alcohol not only affects our bodies, but can also change the way we see the world and the decisions we make about our behaviour.

What are some signs of alcohol abuse?

  • getting drunk on a regular basis
  • lying about things, or about how much alcohol he or she is using
  • giving up activities he or she used to do, such as sports and homework, and not hanging out with friends who don't drink
  • planning drinking in advance, hiding alcohol, or drinking alone
  • having to drink more to get the same high
  • believing that in order to have fun he or she needs to drink
  • frequent hangovers
  • taking risks, including sexual risks
  • having "blackouts" - forgetting what he or she did the night before while drinking
  • feeling run-down, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal

What can I do if a friend is abusing alcohol?

  • The first step is getting your friend to talk to someone about his or her alcohol use. Your friend needs support and understanding, and someone he or she can trust to talk to about the problem.
  • You can't force a friend to get help, but you can encourage him or her to find professional help.
  • If you are really worried about a friend, you must talk to a professional or someone that you trust – a teacher, a doctor, a parent or a counselor. This isn’t being disloyal to your friend – and it will help you figure out the best steps to take to help your friend find ways to stay safe.

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What is Tobacco?

Tobacco comes from various plants native to tropical America. These plants are widely cultivated for their leaves - which are used primarily for manufacturing cigarettes. Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals that are cancer producing, including nicotine, tars, and carbon monoxide. Nicotine is a stimulant in cigarettes that is highly addictive. It stimulates the brain and central nervous system and this makes most smokers feel relaxed.

What are some effects of smoking tobacco?

  • Increased pulse rate and blood pressure
  • Flare-ups or chest spasms
  • Increased susceptibility to colds and pneumonia
  • Decreased physical endurance
  • Increased risk of serious health problems like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer
  • Increased risk of Emphysema – a life-threatening disease in which the lungs are abnormally enlarged
  • Chronic bronchitis and several types of cancers common in chronic smokers

Because your body adjusts chemically to having nicotine in your system, it is often difficult to quit smoking. The good news is, however, once you stop smoking – your body immediately begins to repair itself. Within 20 minutes from the time you quit smoking, blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal. Within one day your risk of having a heart attack decreases.

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What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a tobacco-like greenish or brownish material consisting of the dried flowering, fruiting tops and leaves of the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Effects of smoking cannabis appear gradually and last a relatively long time – the person feels calm, relaxed, talkative and sometimes drowsy. Concentration and short-term memory are impaired and sensory perception seems enhanced and distinct. Some people withdraw, or experience fearfulness, anxiety, and depression. A few people experience panic, terror or paranoia – particularly with larger doses. Using Cannabis before driving is particularly dangerous.

What are some signs of chronic, heavy use?

  • Decreased motivation and interest
  • Difficulties with memory and concentration
  • Respiratory system damage – a single joint of cannabis yields much more tar than a strong cigarette
  • Withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, irritability, sleeping problems, sweating and loss of appetite

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Club Drugs

What are Club Drugs?

Club Drugs include such drugs as Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and Rohypnol. These drugs are governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Possession is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for up to several years on indictment or upon summary conviction to a fine of up to $1,000 or 6 months imprisonment, or both, for a first offence. WHAT ARE THEY?

What are some effects of GHB?

  • Low dose effects include - Lowered inhibitions, euphoria, drowsiness, dizziness and amnesia.
  • High dose effects include – Confusion, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, self-injury, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness and coma.

What are some effects of LSD?

  • Short-term effects: Dilated pupils, increase in body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, numbness, weakness, dry mouth and tremors, vivid perceptual distortions, hallucinations and mood swings.
  • Long-term effects: Development of physical tolerance and psychological dependency, ongoing speech problems, depression, anxiety, persistent psychosis, and flashbacks.

What are some effects of Rohypnol?

  • Drowsiness, dizziness, memory loss, relaxation, aggressive behaviour, impaired thinking and motor coordination, lowered inhibitions, slurred speech, decreased respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. Can cause amnesia and blackouts.

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What is Cocaine?

Cocaine (also known as “coke”, “snow”, “blow” and many other street names) is a powerful stimulant. Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca bush and is an odorless, white crystal powder. The rock-like form of cocaine is called “crack’ and is made from cocaine powder, baking soda and/or ammonia.

What are some short-term effects of cocaine?

  • Dilated pupils, dry mouth, stuffy nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • Feelings of euphoria, confidence and power
  • Increased energy, alertness and over activity
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

What are some long-term effects of cocaine?

  • Chapped skin under the nose, internal damage to the nose
  • Headaches
  • Inability to experience pleasure without the drug
  • Weakened immune system
  • Seizures, heart problems or stroke
  • Depression, paranoia, hallucinations

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What is Ecstasy?

The chemical name for Ecstasy is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA. The chemical structure and the effects of MDMA are similar to amphetamine (a stimulant) and to mescaline (a hallucinogen).

Ecstasy is used mainly at raves, clubs or concerts. It is usually taken orally in tablet or capsule form. Ecstasy can also be injected or snorted. Similar to other drugs, it is not uncommon for the illegal purchase of ‘ecstasy’ to contain other drugs or substances that may be harmful.

Some of the short-term effects of Ecstasy may include:

  • Strong sense of pleasure and confidence
  • Increased feelings of sociability, openness, and empathy
  • Excess energy and hyperactivity or intense relaxation
  • Sense of alertness
  • Muscle cramping and tension
  • Clenching of jaw muscles, teeth grinding and jaw pain
  • Anxiety, paranoia or panic attacks

Long-term effects of Ecstasy may include:

  • Forgetfulness, poor concentration and feeling depressed mid-week has been reported after weekend use. The depression can be significant enough to require professional help.
  • Fatigue, sleep disturbances, confusion, panic, anxiety, paranoia, depression (suicidal feelings to those who are susceptible have been reported weeks after taking the drug).
  • Frequent users may be at serious risk for liver damage or other serious side effects. Liver damage may be indicated by a rash that looks like acne.
  • There is evidence to support that ecstasy can damage the cells and chemistry of the human brain, affecting some functions of the brain, including learning and memory. Research suggests that the risk of damage caused by ecstasy use is linked to the amount taken and the frequency of use.
  • At this time it is not known how long the damage caused by ecstasy might last, or if it may be permanent. More research is needed to confirm the long-term effects of ecstasy on the human brain.

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What are Inhalants/Solvents?

Inhalants are products with poisonous fumes that people inhale to get high. Most inhalants are products made from crude oil (petroleum) including gasoline, automotive fluids and various consumer products called solvents. Inhalants are commonly called solvents because so many solvents are used as inhalants. Solvents are products that are good for dissolving, coating or sticking to surfaces. Solvents have poisonous fumes and evaporate easily.

Inhalant abuse occurs when people inhale substances to get high, instead of using them for their manufactured purpose. There are hundreds of different kinds of inhalants, divided into the following types:

  • Volatile solvents
  • Aerosol or spray cans
  • Gases
  • Nitrites

What are some short-term effects of inhalants?

  • Once inhaled, fumes go from the nose to the bloodstream and quickly affect the heart, lungs and brain.
  • The chemical nature of inhalants causes them to concentrate in the central nervous system (the body’s computer and information highway).
  • Inhalants can damage our internal organs, causing the heart and lungs to work irregularly. They can cause fatal heart attacks.
  • Users usually experience a short high that lasts from a few moments to half hour. They may feel dizzy, giddy or clumsy.
  • The short high is followed by a long ‘downer’ of pain and discomfort.

What are some long-term effects of inhalants?

  • Inhalants are poisons that weaken the body and can eventually kill the user.
  • It takes ten days for inhalant chemicals to clear out of the body’s systems. Repeated use means that these toxic chemicals can build up in the central nervous system. Long-term use may cause severe damage to lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, blood, immune system and senses.
  • Death by inhalants has many forms such as:
    • Sudden sniffing death caused by irregular heartbeat
    • Breathing stops because the lungs can’t get any oxygen
    • Suffocating with plastic bags
    • Choking on vomit

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Drugs and Sports

What are drugs and sports?

National and International sports federations have banned “doping” in sports to protect the health of athletes and to level the competitive playing field. Some of the substances that are being used to improve sports performance include the following:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Stimulants (includes ephedrine)
  • Narcotics/Analgesics
  • Diuretics
  • Andro (same as anabolic steroids)
  • Marijuana (calming effect)

What are some harmful effects of drugs used in sports?

  • Acne, stunted growth, increased risk of heart attack and stroke from higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduced levels of good cholesterol (HSL), high blood pressure, liver and kidney disorders, psychological distress, immune system depression (anabolic steroids and andro).
  • Increased heart rate/blood pressure, arrhythmia, dehydration, tremors, convulsions, increased anxiety and aggression (stimulants).
  • Addictive, causes respiratory depression, irritations, nausea, convulsions, dizziness, use may result in further damage to a serious injury (narcotics/analgesics).
  • Causes dehydration, muscle weakening, cramping, drop in blood pressure, can lead to heart irregularities (diuretics).
  • Swollen blood vessels, reduced saliva production, rapid heart rate, issues with blood pressure and reduced blood-sugar levels (marijuana).

What are the warning signs of anabolic steroid use?

  • Rapid weight gain and an increase in muscle size and strength (5-10 kg in 6-12 weeks).
  • Changes in behaviour; increased moodiness/hostility.
  • Severe acne on upper back, shoulders, arms and face.
  • Rounded or “moon face”.
  • Abnormal breast development in males.
  • Growth of body hair and lowering of voice in females.
  • Jaundice, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes; a sign of liver disturbance.

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Other Drugs – Magic Mushrooms and Crystal Methamphetamine

What are Magic Mushrooms?

Magic Mushrooms (shrooms) are also known as the drug psilocybin. The effects of psilocybin are usually felt shortly after ingesting the drug.

What are some effects of magic mushrooms?

  • Sensations of relaxation or fatigue
  • Separation from surroundings
  • Heaviness or lightness

There are some risks associated with taking large doses of magic mushrooms. These include:

  • Perceptual distortions
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Numbness of the mouth
  • Nausea
  • Shivering
  • Flushing and sweating
  • Drug-induced hazardous behaviours
  • May precipitate psychosis in vulnerable users

What is Crystal Methamphetamine?

Crystal methamphetamine comes from a group of methamphetamines. It is also known as ice, crystal, crank, tweek and fire. Crystal methamphetamine can be inhaled, injected and snorted. The use of crystal methamphetamine results in an intense rush followed by a prolonged sense of alertness, increased energy and well being. This intense feeling is usually followed by a crash period characterized by the opposite feelings once the initial effects of the drug have worn off. Crystal methamphetamine users may go on binges – during which time they do not eat or sleep but continue taking the drug. Crystal methamphetamine is usually not used in isolation and many users also turn to alcohol and other drugs.

What are some effects of crystal methamphetamine?

  • Unhealthy quick weight loss due to loss of appetite
  • Confusion, irrational anger, paranoia
  • Problems with thinking, memory, concentration
  • Violent, aggressive behaviour
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleeplessness
  • Brain damage
  • Drug-induced psychiatric conditions
  • Cardiac arrest and death

What are the signs that someone may be using crystal methamphetamine?

  • Very talkative
  • High energy level
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sores, lesions and scratching “crank bugs”
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Strong smell of ammonia
  • Violent behaviour
  • Weight loss

If you have concerns about your own or someone else’s use of alcohol or drugs, please contact your local health centre, your doctor, a counselor, or the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba at 1-204-944-6200 or the Youth Office at 1-204-944-6235. If you are currently in a crisis, please phone the 24-hour crisis line at 1-204-786-8686, or toll free at 1-888-388-3019, or TTY 1-204-784-4097.

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What is gambling?

Gambling is risking money or valuables on a game, contest or event where the end result totally or partially depends on chance. Another word for this is betting. Some kinds of gambling are totally random. A few examples are legalized gambling activities (you have to be 18 years of age):

  • slot machines
  • lotteries
  • scratch tickets

Gambling also includes betting money on games like pool or basketball.
Most people gamble for entertainment or to do something social with friends and family. However, there are individuals who develop problems with gambling.

Signs of a gambling problem:

  • Attempting to keep friends and family from knowing how much or how often you gamble.
  • Telling people that you didn’t gamble or that you won money when you actually lost.
  • Gambling is one of the most exciting activities that you do.
  • You get upset or irritable if you are unable to gamble.
  • It is hard to stop gambling after you lose money – you want to win back the money that you lost.
  • You lose track of time when you gamble.


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