Alcohol and Other Drugs

It is important to know some basic information about drugs. Drugs are very much a part of our society.  A “drug” is defined as anything put into the body which changes the way a person thinks, acts or feels.  This is a broad category which includes illegal substances, medicines that doctors prescribe to treat illness, common medications such as cough syrups, painkillers and laxatives available in pharmacies and other stores, and readily available beverages containing alcohol and caffeine.

The effects of any drug depend on several factors:

  • the amount taken at one time
  • the user’s past drug experience
  • the manner in which the drug is taken
  • the situation in which the drug is used.


“Drug abuse” and “substance misuse” are terms used when the use of a drug is creating problems.  It could be a problem with not being able to control the use of a substance over a long period of time or it could be the harmful consequence of using a drug once.  Problematic substance use occurs when the use of a substance is creating problems at school, with a job, with family or friends, or with a person’s health, development or safety.  The use of a substance could be causing difficulties for the individual or those around them.  Drug dependency is the repeated use of a substance where the individual believes they cannot manage without it.

All the information in the section is from PAD’s Parent and Community Handbook. The information on specific drugs can be found in printable Quick Info handouts:


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