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Substance Use in Canada

Improving Quality of Life:  Substance Use and Aging

​​CCSA launched a series in 2005 to draw attention to key issues around problematic substance use and highlight areas for action in both policy and practice. Published biennially, each volume in the series is developed through review and analysis of the latest research evidence, guided by CCSA's Scientific Advisory Council​. The publications are targeted at policy makers, program development personnel, researchers, educators and health professionals.​​

CCSA has renamed the series the Substance Use in Canada, a change that reflects the evolution of terms in the field to display greater sensitivity to those affected by problematic substance use and substance use disorders. The objectives of the series remain the same, only the name has changed.


Improving Quality of Life: Substance Use and Aging (April 2018)

  • This report is written by experts in the field of substance use among older adults, and provides a summary of the best available evidence on effective ways to prevent, identify, assess and treat problematic substance use in the older adult population.

  • Adults aged 55 and over represent the fastest growing subgroup of the Canadian population. As older adults continue to make up a larger proportion of the population, it will become increasingly important to understand the needs of older adults and how the Canadian healthcare system can adapt to those needs.

  • Improving Quality of Life: Substance Use and Aging will give decision makers, policy makers, nurses, geriatricians, researchers and others working with older adults an opportunity to consider the evidence as they develop and employ more effective prevention and intervention programs aimed at addressing substance use among older adults.

  • A one-page summary highlights the objectives and some of the key findings.


The Effects of Cannabis Use during Adolescence (June 2015)​

  • Compiled by well-known and respected experts in the field of cannabis research, the report provides an overview of the latest research on how cannabis affects youths’ brain and behaviour.

  • Discusses links between cannabis and mental illness, the cognitive and motor function impairment that can present a safety hazard for drivers, as well as the the risks for addiction and treatment options.

  • Highlights the need for greater awareness and more informed discussions about the effects of cannabis on young people, including their educational, occupational and social development.

  • Offers recommendations for how the evidence reviewed in this report can inform policy, practice and programs.

Childhood and Adoles​cent Pathways to Substance Use Disorders​  (June 2014)

  • Acknowledges that while no one factor can predict later-life problematic substance use, there are risk factors and behaviours that should trigger a closer look at how to build resiliency and put in place protective factors that can help prevent later-life problematic substance use.

  • Explains how childhood and adolescence are times when prevention efforts can have the most impact, particularly if they consider the child or youth’s stage of development.

  • Calls on parents, teachers and caregivers to recognize the role they play in promoting resiliency, in helping to identify risk factors and in helping to take steps to address them.

  • Calls for more research into recent findings from the neurobiological sciences, which have demonstrated how early life experiences can change the brain and, in turn, either predict poor outcomes or build resiliency to protect against later-life problematic substance use. ​


Licit and Illicit Drug Use during Pregnancy: Maternal, Neonatal and Early Childhood Consequences (November 2013)

  • Outlines the unique dangers of substance use for women in general and pregnant women in particular.

  • Notes that treatment should be comprehensive and encompass a continuum of support services that includes counselling, medication-assisted treatment, parenting resources, housing, employment and transportation.

  • Recommends the negative stigma towards people with substance use problems be addressed because it is a significant barrier to pregnant women accessing treatment.


Concurrent Disorders (April 2010)

  • Calls attention to the need for integrated and coordinated treatment services for those suffering from concurrent disorders.

  • Highlights the need for a common educational platform for training and developing the skills of professionals providing care for this group.

  • Recommends special attention for youth, as most substance use and mental health problems develop during this life stage and the opportunities for early intervention hold most promise.


Previous Editions

Youth in Focus (September 2007) 

​Current Challenges and Choices (April 2005)