This information is intended to help parents and other adults understand issues related to teenagers, alcohol and cannabis.

Adolescence is a time when teens actively and consciously create an identity for themselves. At this time in life, as teens work at becoming adults and discovering who they are, parents and other adults may find that teens:

  • question family rules, values and beliefs
  • experiment to satisfy their curiosity
  • want to experience things for themselves

Yet teens can be so vulnerable because they don’t always think about the consequences of their actions.

Alcohol is the drug most commonly used by teens. Cannabis is another commonly used drug. The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19 years. Recreational cannabis use is currently illegal in Canada. Medical cannabis use is legal under physician supervision outlined by theĀ Marijuana Medical Access Regulations.

Many teens use alcohol or cannabis to experiment and assert their independence:

  • Under half (42.5%) of students grades 7-12 in Ontario report drinking alcohol in the last year.
  • 16% of grades 7-12 students reported getting drunk in the last month.
  • 19% of grades 7-12 students in Ontario reported having used cannabis in the last year and 2% of grades 9-12 students report dependence.

Teens say they use alcohol and cannabis to:

  • be relaxed and have fun
  • be like their friends
  • try new things
  • feel better about themselves
  • deal with stress
  • rebel
  • have “something to do”
  • get drunk or high

To many teens it may seem like all their friends are drinking. Many teens believe cannabis is “natural” and therefore harmless. Teens see people drinking and smoking cannabis on TV, in movies and music videos. This is often portrayed as positive, glamorous and risk-free.

Kids who drink underage, who drink to get drunk and who make unsafe choices when drinking or using drugs put themselves and others at risk for injuries.