What is substance abuse? What is an addiction?

Any substance that changes the way the body or the mind functions is a drug. When a substance negatively affects your life, it may be substance abuse. Substance abuse is also called addiction.

People can be addicted to many different types of legal and illegal substances. For example:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine - Coffee, tea, chocolate, cola
  • Illegal drugs - Marijuana, cocaine and others
  • Over-the-counter medication - Cold medicine and others
  • Prescription drugs - Sleeping pills, painkillers and others
  • Tobacco - Cigarettes and others

Using a substance is a problem when it begins to affect any part of your life, such as:

  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Physical, social and mental health
  • Employment - Missing work or not doing the job well
  • Finances - Paying for the substance
  • Safety - Driving drunk
  • Legal status - Using illegal drugs or driving when you are drunk

Addiction can affect anyone. It affects people of all ages, ethnicities, religions, occupations, and levels of income and education.

There is no single reason why one person abuses a substance while another person can use it without any problem.

Many people develop an addiction to cope with life's problems. For a while, the substance may hide pain, and take away fear. However, this solution can become the problem.

For More Information

  • Mental Health & Addiction Information - Links to information and resources about mental health and addiction. From the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
  • Drug and Alcohol Helpline - can give you information and refer you to drug and alcohol treatment and supports in Ontario.
  • ConnexOntario -  Information and Referral Specialists answer all calls, emails or webchat requests any time of the day. The service is free, confidential and anonymous for people experiencing problems with gambling, drugs or alcohol and mental illness.
Last updated: September 18, 2015 4001320