Expanding the Reach for Mental Wellness for Better Performance in Sport & Life


It’s much more than just the specific sport; it’s about reinforcing positive attitude and lessons for life.


David’s Story


Up until this school year, David was a regular teen who enjoyed going to school and hanging out with his friends. Recently, he’s been moody and irritable all the time. His grades have been
dropping, and his parents are certain that he’s come home intoxicated or high at least a few times. His parents wonder about drug problems, but they just don’t know what to do. David’s been so
irritable and withdrawn that everyone in the family feels like they’re walking on eggshells…

What are Alcohol and/or Substance Use Problems?

Many children and youth have tried drugs and alcohol. Surveys have reported that by the end of high school, 80% of students have tried alcohol, 49% have tried marijuana, and 29% have used a street drug other than marijuana (Johnston, 2002).

Tried Alcohol

Tried Marjuana

Tried Street Drug

“What’s the harm? Don’t a lot of people try drugs or alcohol?”

Although many youth who try alcohol or substances will not go on to develop problems with addiction, there is a sizeable percentage that do go onto develop problems. According to the study Drug Use Among Ontario Students: 1977-2007:

  • 61% of students have tried alcohol, and 29% have tried illicit drugs (street drugs such as marijuana).
  • 19% of students have hazardous levels of alcohol use, and 15% have drug use to the point where it is causing problems.

Alcohol and drug use is something to be concerned about because it is linked to a variety of problems such as:

  • Early sexual activity
  • Skipping or dropping out of school
  • Violence and aggression
  • Early use of alcohol and drugs increases the chance that a person will have problems with addictions later in life.

Alcohol and drugs are particularly damaging to children and youth because their brains are still developing and maturing.

Types of Alcohol and Substance Use

There are three main patterns of alcohol and substance use:

Alcohol or Substance Use

Using alcohol or other drugs occasionally, but without developing: a) physical tolerance, b) withdrawal symptoms, or c) social pr emotional problems.

Alcohol or Substance Abuse

Using alcohol or other drugs to the point where it is causing problems physically, socially or emotionally.

Alcohol or Substance Dependence

Using alcohol or substances to the point where the person’s body is physically dependent on the drug. A person is dependent when they must keep using alcohol/drugs in order to keep from having withdrawal symptoms, and if they miss having alcohol/drugs, their body goes into withdrawal.

Common Drugs

Common substances that can be abused include:


Used because it can often cause pleasurable feelings as well as reduce anxiety and/or stress. Unfortunately, excess use can cause mood and anxiety problems, impair memory, coordination and judgement.


Used by people because it can cause temporary pleasurable feelings. Unfortunately, continued use leads to problems with concentration, learning and even paranoia.


Stimulants are a class of medications which include amphetamines. methylphenidate (aka Ritalin), as well as caffeine. Cocaine and crack are also found in this category. Stimulants are used because they can (temporarily) improve mood, and increase energy, alertness and concentration. Indeed, prescription stimulants such as Methylphenidate can be very helpful for certain conditions, as long it is monitored by a doctor. Unfortunately, stimulant abuse can lead to depression, mood problems, and paranoia.


Inhalants are chemical vapors that you breathe that cause mind-altering effects which some people find enjoyable. Unfortunately, inhalants damage brain cells along with other vital organs
such as the heart, kidneys, liver and muscles.


Hallucinogens include drugs such as LSD (acid), psilocybin (mushrooms), ecstacy and ketamine. They are used to create mild to intense mind-altering effects including changes in perception, feelings of emotional warmth and energy. Unfortunately, negative effects can include terrifying hallucinations, severe depression, overheating and death.


Opioids are a class of medications which include morphine, codine, oxycodone as well as street drugs such as heroin. They are used because they can (temporarily) create feelings of euphoria or
extreme happiness. Doctors may prescribe opioids to relieve pain. Unfortunately, opioid abuse can lead to nausea, physical dependence, mood problems, and death.

Why Do People Use Drugs?

People can use alcohol and drugs for different reasons. Its easier to help someone with alcohol and drug use if you figure out their reasons because then you can 1) agree with them on their reason (i.e. their goal) for using (which helps form trust with them), and 2) then find a healthier to get to that same goal.

Common reasons (and corresponding solutions) include:

Boredom, curiosity, and desire for fun.

If this is the case, then you can help your youth to find better ways through other activities (e.g. sports, arts,

Peer pressure, and wanting to fit in with a peer group.

If this is the case, then you can support your youth to find healthier ways to get peer acceptance. Or help your
youth find a different set of peers.

Dealing with stress at home, work, school or relationships.

If this is the case, then you can work with your youth to

  • Identify those stresses, and
  • Find ways to reduce those stresses, and
  • Cope better with them.

It may turn out that you are part of that stress. If so, its actually a good thing – now you can do something about it.

To deal with an underlying condition such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, or poor concentration. Unfortunately, although a street drug may help temporarily, they invariably cause more problems in the long run. Examples include the depressed teenager who uses ‘ecstasy’ and marijuana to improve his mood. The university student with anxiety and insomnia that copes by using alcohol. Or the high school student who discovers that nicotine and marijuana help improve his focus. If this is the case, then it would be important to find healthier ways to deal with any underlying condition. Start by seeing your child’s physician.


Johnston L et al. Monitoring the future. National results on adolescent drug use: overview of key findings, 2001. Bethesda (MD): National Institute on Drug Abuse; 2002. NIH Pub No. 02-5105.