Google Translate Disclaimer

Translation on this website is provided by Google Translate, a third-party automated translator tool. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of translations performed by Google Translate, or for any issues or damages resulting from its use.

Photo of drugs
print header


Preventing problematic substance use

There are various pathways that can lead to the onset of substance use and problematic substance use. One pathway that is a crucial focus is addressing root causes as it relates to early childhood experiences. 

When children are exposed to negative experiences, or what is called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as violence, neglect, abuse and ongoing toxic stress, it disrupts healthy brain development. It is important to support healthy brain development, and this can be done through providing protective factors such as supportive, nurturing relationships. According to the Centre on the Developing Child, Harvard University, “The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” Resilience, which is the ability to successfully adapt to difficult or challenging life experiences, can buffer negative experiences or trauma that might otherwise lead to health issues, unhealthy coping behaviours, problematic substance use, and substance use disorder.

The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (AFWI) provides information on how experiences early in life change our brains in ways that can make us vulnerable to health problems across the lifespan including substance use disorder.

The AFWI offers a course called the Brain Story which provides a deeper understanding of brain development and its connection to addiction and mental health. It’s free and anyone can sign up online. 





Other pathways leading to problematic substance use can include:

  • Marketing, advertising, and availability of a substance can increase substance use in youth
  • Peer pressure and/or seeking acceptance amongst peers
  • Mental Health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • A family history of problems with substance use
  • Social and economic concerns with housing, income, education, nutrition and supports
  • Barriers to accessing community supports and services such as health care and recreation

    Problematic substance use and substance use disorder can happen to anyone - it is a health issue, not a weakness or a failure. It is important to decrease stigma associated with mental health and substance use so that people can feel comfortable seeking the help and treatment they need.


    Did you find what you were looking for today?
    What did you like about this page?
    How can we improve this page?

    If you have any questions or concerns that require a response, please contact Health Connection directly.

    Thanks for your feedback.
    Failed to submit comment. Please try submitting again or contact us at the Health Unit.
    Comment already submitted ...