Reduce the harm

Support your teen by letting them know you are there to help them

You as the parent are in the best position to get the help your child needs to reduce the harms that problematic substance use can cause a young person. While not endorsing the use of substances, it’s important to focus on reducing any harmful consequences these substances may have on your child.

“The biggest thing is not recognizing the problem when it’s staring you in the face.” 

The parent of a young person with a substance use disorder

If your child uses substances like alcohol, cannabis, opioids, or other drugs on a regular basis, or you have concerns that their drug use has developed into a substance use disorder, they will need your help. 

Reduce the Harm  

There is an immediate risk to using prescription drugs non-medically, or illegal drugs or pills that look like prescription off the street because they can be tainted with fentanyl.  

If your child is experimenting with or using opioids, stimulants or street drugs like meth or cocaine – it can be dangerous, even deadly.  These substances can pose significant harm to a young person’s health, including accidental overdose and death, even if only used once. Seek professional guidance and be sure to keep naloxone on hand if opioids are involved. 

Have a Safety Plan

A safety plan can help reduce the health risks of these substances, as well as letting your child know that you care, and you want to stay involved in their life in a positive way. 

Discuss a safety plan with your child as a precautionary measure:  

  • Ensure they are never alone while using,
  • They only consume drugs at a supervised consumption or overdose prevention site,  
  • They know the signs of accidental overdose, and understand they can call 911 without fear of arrest for drug use,   
  • Always keep Naloxone on hand.  

Feeling overwhelmed? It’s OK to ask for help.  

You can get immediate support and guidance to address your concerns in the Parent Support Hub. You can also access short term counselling with a mental health professional for yourself and/or your child. This service completely free and it available 24/7.

What options are available?
For those who do need more help with their substance use disorder, treatment occurs in a variety of settings, in different forms, and for different lengths of time. An Addictions Professional can recommend the best level of care to meet your child’s needs. They will guide you through available treatment options, taking into consideration other important factors like location and cost. Whether in an outpatient or inpatient setting, treatment programs usually address an individual’s physical, psychological, emotional, and social issues in addition to substance use.

Get an Evaluation
An evaluation can determine what kind of care your child needs. To determine the best course of action for you and your child, an evaluation with a Certified Addictions Professional is the first step. Your child’s primary care physician or paediatrician may be able to suggest a reliable professional to conduct evaluations.
This person will inquire about your child’s medical; psychological and family history; substances used; patterns of use; impact on functioning in school, work, and/or in other important relationships; treatment history, if any; etc. Various assessments may be used including a urine screen.

It’s important to get medical advice first in order to determine that treatment is required, then begin the search for a continuum of care or treatment that best suits your child.

Note that if your child has mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, or bipolar disorder, it’s important to find a treatment that addresses both simultaneously.

The opioid crisis

The opioid crisis in Canada is having a devastating impact on families. If you know that your child is using opioids problematically, act immediately. You could save their life.

It’s important to keep Naloxone on hand and know how to use it, in case of an accidental overdose.

The Let’s Talk Opioids brochure can help you understand more about opioids and offers suggestions of ways to keep your kids safe or reduce the harms that opioids can cause.

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