Substance Use Health

Your school can play an important role in addressing substance use health. The information below is framed using a Comprehensive School Health Planning Approach and can help you develop a Substance Use Health Plan for your school.

In your plan, try to include actions that influence all four inter-related healthy school areas. You’ll find some examples below:

1. Teaching and Learning:

  • Use credible information and resources to teach the curriculum, such as:
  • Weave social-emotional learning into curricula to enhance students' skills related to self-awareness, empathy, communication, self-regulation and conflict resolution.
  • Adapt curricula to improve students' health literacy skills (including mental health), and enhance their ability to find, appraise, and understand health information.
  • Promote or provide training and learning opportunities for educators:
    • The EOHU School Health Team can provide tailored support (questions/answers, intervention techniques, etc.), provide access to available resources, and share knowledge and useful references (best-practices, studies, research, etc.). Reach out to

2. Social and Physical Environment:

  • Promote and consult Ophea’s Conversation Tip Sheets for educators on how allyship, harm reduction, mental health, and stigma intersect with substance use.
  • Using safer language when describing substance use or people who use substances can help counter or prevent stigma. Promote the use of people-first language as described in Overcoming Stigma Through Language: A Primer (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and Community Addictions Peer Support Association)
    • Say “people who use drugs” instead of “drug users.”
    • Say “person who occasionally uses substances” instead of “recreational drug user.”
    • Say “person in recovery” instead of “ex-user” or “former addict.”
  • Implement welcoming activities to create safe spaces, like:
    • Promoting and expanding the range of extra-curricular programming available to students (for example, intramurals, events, and clubs) to reflect students' diverse interests and identities.
    • Enabling students to create safe, inviting, and inclusive communal spaces within the school for students to use during breaks or after school activities.
    • Facilitating opportunities for adults within the school community to serve as formal or informal mentors, providing youth with guidance, social and emotional support (e.g., enabling students and staff to come together in a welcoming inclusive environment to socialize).

3. Policies:

  • Review and assess your school’s code of conduct and your school board’s policies. By improving the physical and social conditions in which students and staff learn, work and play, healthy school policies can help prevent or delay substance use and promote health.
  • A sample policy is available upon request to guide boards and schools who are interested in addressing substance use health on school property. Support to tailor policy options to the school's context and needs is also available. Reach out to

4. Partnerships:

  • Facilitate and promote various partnerships with local organizations, centres, or businesses to increase access to programming for students and create part-time work and volunteer opportunities for students that help them enjoy a fulfilling life.
  • Engaging experts from different community agencies can make your Comprehensive School Health committee stronger and better supported. The EOHU is available to offer support to your school team. Reach out to But don’t forget to involve other community partners and your school community, including students and parents/guardians.
  • Promote resources for parents/guardians, such as:

For more on upstream prevention efforts in school communities, please refer to the Public Heath Agency of Canada's resource series Preventing problematic substance use by enhancing student well-being.

Additional Support

Contact your school board as they may have established pathways for supporting students showing problematic substance use. School Mental Health Ontario provides steps on How to help students.

For schools:

For children, youth, and families:

For parents:

For students 16 years of age or older:

For individuals of all ages: