Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy: Prevention and education

How the strategy supports prevention and education initiatives across Canada.

The Canadian Drugs and Substances strategy includes four elements: pevention and education, evidence, substance use services and supports, and substance controls. It is also equitable, comprehensive, collaborative and compassionate

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About prevention and education

Prevention and education initiatives support communities and raise awareness to influence the health and well-being of people living in Canada. They aim to:

  • prevent, delay or reduce substance use related harms by:

    • reducing risk factors
    • increasing protective factors
  • reduce healthcare and social costs by preventing substance use related harms
  • give people the facts they need to make informed choices around substance use and where to get help

Addressing risk factors and increasing protective factors, especially early in life, is key in reversing the current trends of substance use related harms.

Risk factors increase the likelihood of substance use related harms and negative health outcomes. Some examples include:

  • poverty
  • mental illness
  • drug availability
  • negative school atmosphere
  • exposure to peer substance use
  • unstable housing or homelessness
  • trauma and childhood adversity, like child abuse and neglect

Protective factors are positive physical, social and mental health influences that can help reduce substance use related harms. Some examples include:

  • physical safety
  • social inclusion
  • safe neighbourhoods
  • a positive school environment
  • caregiver involvement and monitoring
  • stable, permanent and appropriate housing
  • healthy behavioural development, like coping skills and emotional regulation

Youth is a crucial life stage when life-long behaviours develop. Substance use at this age can:

  • harm brain development and function
  • increase the risk of developing substance use disorders

Other factors may interact with each other to:

  • put people at greater risk for mental health and substance use related harms
  • limit people’s access to important supports

These factors are often called the social determinants of health.

Experiences of discrimination, racism and historical trauma are important social determinants of health for certain groups in Canada, such as:

  • Black people
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • 2SLGBTQIA+ people

Chronic pain can also have major impacts on a person’s mental and emotional health. Unmanaged pain has also been identified as a key driver of higher-risk substance use.

Learn more:

How prevention and education fits into the strategy

It’s important to pay attention to risk and protective factors when planning actions that help to:

  • address the overdose crisis in Canada
  • reduce substance use and its related harms

To meet the needs of people at risk, including youth and marginalized populations, we’re:

  • investing in community-led programs to prevent or reduce harms related to substance use
  • raising awareness through public education and outreach activities
  • addressing underlying inequities related to substance use related harms

Investing in community-led programs to prevent or reduce harms related to substance use

We invest in community-led programs that help prevent and reduce substance use related harms.

Substance Use and Addictions Program

This program provides funding to other levels of government and organizations that are:

  • Indigenous
  • not-for-profit
  • community-led

Funds go towards innovative treatment, harm reduction and recovery projects that aim to:

  • minimize substance use related harms
  • improve health outcomes for people who use substances, including:

    • youth
    • at-risk populations
    • other marginalized populations

Substance Use and Addictions Program


Youth Substance Use Prevention Program

This upcoming program will provide funding to communities to implement data-driven, community-led approaches to:

  • prevent and delay substance use in youth
  • lower experiences of substance use and its related harms

This model is based on the Icelandic Prevention Model, an approach developed by Planet Youth in Iceland. It’s based on the idea that:

  • the physical and social environment has an impact on youth behaviour
  • community involvement is necessary to make changes in youth behaviour

Communities implementing the program will:

  • provide a forum where youth and other community members can discuss goals and the changes they need in their communities
  • gather data and information from high school students so that the community has information about local youth
  • make changes to the community’s social environment based on youth data. Activities might include:

    • arts and cultural programs for youth
    • parent and caregiver peer support groups


Harm Reduction Fund

This program provides funding to time-limited projects across Canada that help reduce HIV and hepatitis C among people who share injection and inhalation drug-use equipment.
Harm Reduction Fund


Mental wellness programs for First Nations and Inuit communities

The strategy also contributes to supporting programs that provide First Nations and Inuit communities with access to mental wellness services, which:

  • reduce risk factors
  • promote protective factors
  • improve associated health outcomes

Mental health and wellness in First Nations and Inuit communities


Youth Gang Prevention Fund

We’re also supporting the Youth Gang Prevention Fund through the National Crime Prevention Strategy. This program funds projects that:

  • provide exit strategies for youth who belong to gangs
  • aim to prevent at-risk youth from joining or re-joining gangs

Youth Gang Prevention Fund
National Crime Prevention Strategy


Crime Prevention Action Fund

We’re also supporting the Crime Prevention Action Fund through the National Crime Prevention Strategy. This program provides funding to evidence-based community crime prevention initiatives that address known risk and protective factors among vulnerable groups, especially:

  • chronic offenders
  • children and youth aged 6 to 24

Crime Prevention Action Fund
National Crime Prevention Strategy


Northern and Indigenous Crime Prevention Fund

We’re also supporting the Northern and Indigenous Crime Prevention Fund through the National Crime Prevention Strategy. This fund supports culturally sensitive crime prevention practices which address known risk and protective factors to:

  • reduce vulnerability to crime
  • promote community safety approaches

The fund supports programs in Indigenous communities both on and off-reserve and in the North.
Northern and Indigenous Crime Prevention Fund
National Crime Prevention Strategy


We also developed resources for schools and community organizations that support youth, outlining practical approaches to preventing substance use related harms:

Raising awareness through public education and outreach activities

We raise awareness of substance use related harms, ways to reduce those harms, and the importance of reducing stigma through:

  • public education
  • outreach activities
  • awareness campaigns

These activities provide factual information to support people in making informed choices around substance use and helping those around them. Activities include:


  • Know More Opioids

    A youth awareness program that educates teens and youth on the risks of opioids and substance use and ways to reduce harms.
    Know More Opioids



  • Pursue Your Passion

    This awareness campaign gives educators information and resources to help teens understand the potential effects of cannabis use on their brain and mental health.
    Pursue Your Passion



  • Consider the Consequences of Vaping

    This self-led module educates teens on the harms and risks associated with youth vaping, and helps prevent the uptake of vaping products.
    Consider the Consequences of Vaping



  • Ease the Burden Campaign

    This campaign promotes seeking help, and provides links to resources and supports. It’s especially aimed at men working in physically demanding jobs who are at higher risk of substance use related harms, including overdose.
    Ease the Burden Campaign



  • Multi-year awareness campaign

    This multi-year campaign raises awareness of:




  • Stigma reduction promotion

    Stigma leads people to hide their substance use, and prevents them from getting help for fear of reprisals and being labelled or judged. Our resources promote information about stigma and includes an interactive gallery of real stigma stories.
    Stigma around drug use
    Gallery (Health Canada Experiences)



  • Drug stigma awareness training

    A training program for law enforcement to help reduce stigma and support frontline officers who interact with people who use substances.
    Drug Stigma Awareness Training



  • Information about where to get help in your province or territory

    Resources and information for people who need help with substance use, including overdose prevention resources and where to get naloxone in your community.
    Get help with substance use



  • Opioids awareness resources

    We also provide opioids awareness resources, which include:

    • videos
    • posters
    • fact sheets
    • wallet cards
    • an audio series

    Awareness resources for opioids


Addressing underlying inequities related to substance use related harms

We work at a federal level to support programs that address inequities in Canada which can be underlying causes of substance use related harms. Health is influenced by many factors, including:

  • race
  • income
  • housing
  • education
  • access to care
  • employment status

We aim to address inequities related to these factors through federal programs, such as:

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