Resources for Adults

Substance Use Overview

Substance use is part of the human condition; people have used tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and other drugs for various “human reasons”, in various countries for thousands of years. Like all things involving humans, substance use is complex and not just “good” or “bad”) and has the potential to both help and harm. What’s more, the effects of using substances are not uniform but unique to each individual.

Drugs and their categories

A drug is any substance that causes a change in how people feel mentally, emotionally or physically. Mood and other brain processes such as perception, attention, learning, memory, concentration and abstract thought can be impacted.

Drug and their effects depend on many factors, including dose, types of drugs used and their interaction, how the drug is taken and the body’s response to drugs that develop over time (tolerance, dependence, etc).

Drugs include both legal drugs (such as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs such as anti-depressants and painkillers) and illegal drugs such as cocaine, speed and LSD. When discussing drugs it can be helpful to categorize drugs according to the effect they have on one’s mind and body.


Hallucinogens are drugs that distort perceptions, mental processes and emotions. Hallucinogens can act as either or both dissociatives or psychedelics. Examples include magic mushrooms, LSD/acid, peyote, PCP, Ketamine, GHB

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Hallucinogens information


Stimulants are drugs that produce a quick temporary increase of energy by speeding up the central nervous system. Breathing, heart rate and creating an alerted state.

Stimulant drugs include, tobacco, caffeine, cocaine/crack, amphetamines and drugs to treat ADHD.

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Cocaine information

Methamphetamine information


Opioids are a group of drugs that resemble morphine and its effects. These include opiates which are derived from the poppy plant. Opioids are among the world's oldest known drugs with its beginnings in the therapeutic use of opium. Opioids act as painkillers with effects such as decreased perception of pain, decreased reaction to pain as well as increased pain tolerance. The side effects of opioids include sedation, constipation, slowing of respiration and a strong sense of euphoria. Examples include, morphine, codeine, opium, heroin, methadone, Demerol and Percodan.

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Heroin information


Depressives are substances that slow down how our central nervous system operates. They slow down our heart rate and breathing and bring a more relaxed and calm feeling. Because our central nervous system is slowed, in small amounts, alcohol can slow our inhabitations as well as make us feel more sociable and talkative. In larger quantities our balance, vision, coordination and ability to make important decisions also become confused.

Depressive drugs include alcohol, solvents/inhalants, benzodiazepines, barbiturate, antihistamines and general anesthetics.

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Alcohol information

Inhalants information


Cannabis originates from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Its psychoactive ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and can be consumed as marijuana, hash or hash oil. The effects of cannabis can include relaxation, heightened mood, mild euphoria, while side-effects include a decrease in short term memory, coordination and concentration, dry mouth, increased appetite, lowered blood pressure. 

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Cannabis information

Cannabis and psychosis information

Low-drinking guidelines

Canada`s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines (LRDG) help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce their immediate and long-term alcohol-related harm. The guidelines recommend no more than two-drinks a day, 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day, 15 per week for men, with an extra drink allowed on special occasions. 

Low-drinking guidelines


Being mindful means we focus on certain aspects of our current experience to the exclusion of others. It is the act of heeding or taking notice or concentrating.

The goal of mindfulness practice is to cultivate a stable, non-reactive awareness of one’s internal emotions, thoughts, sensations) and external (social, environmental) experiences.

Maureen Smith earned her master of social work degree from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. She completed her practicum in clinical social work at East Kootenay Addiction Services Society in Cranbrook, BC. Maureen sees health from a “whole person” perspective, which involves the body, mind and social environment. She can help address the broad range of health and addiction issues and is particularly interested in mindfulness-based interventions, working with adults and youth with maladaptive substance and behavioural patterns. She is passionate about helping people manage stress, develop resilience and move towards positive health and behaviours.