New Opioid Education Resources for Parents/Caregivers, Educators and Students

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the School Mental Health ASSIST program partnered to produce three new downloadable print resources about opioids: the facts, the dangers, problem signs, and getting help. Prescription opioids and fentanyl are covered, as well as information about naloxone, the medication that can prevent death in someone who has overdosed.

“8% and 10% of grades 7 and 8 and high school students, respectively, said they used prescription opioids without a prescription at least once in the past year.” (Ontario Student Drug and Health Survey, 2015)

While the majority of youth are not experimenting or using prescription opioids, or using street drugs that may contain opioids, knowingly or unknowingly, the danger of overdose and possibly death to those who do is high. This level of risk makes it essential that young people and the adults in their lives be educated. These practical information sheets are a must in the substance use/misuse prevention and education tool box.

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Notice of AGM

Notice of
2017 Annual General Meeting of Parent Action on Drugs
Monday, September 11, 2017
6:30 p.m.
North York Civic Centre, Committee Room #1
5100 Yonge Street, Toronto M2N 5V7

Featuring a presentation by Suzanne Witt-Foley on Youth and Mental Health.

Contact the Parent Action on Drugs office if you would like to attend.  416 395-4970 or


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It’s “cannabis” not “marijuana” and other interesting learnings from the Hon. Anne McLellan

By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs

Complex. Challenging. Broad societal impact.  Words that come to mind when thinking about the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada. I recently had the opportunity to hear the Honourable Anne McLellan, chair of the Government of Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, also use these words when she spoke at the University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems. She spoke about the work of the Task Force and where we are headed.  Having scanned the 106-page Task Force’s report on the recommended framework for legalization and regulation, it was a welcome opportunity to learn more about how the recommendations came together (80 diverse position statements taken into consideration) and how quickly so (five months), in a more dynamic way. While Ms. McLellan recapped the general public health approach and principles upon which the legislation introduced by the federal government is based, i.e., take a cautionary approach and protect the public’s health and safety, she imparted some interesting and important side notes, a few I’d like to share here.

  1. It’s cannabis, NOT marijuana, from here on, folks! —As we go forward, we need to stop using the term marijuana in our messaging and replace it with the correct botanical name, cannabis. Marijuana is slang and more typically thought of as the dried flowers of the cannabis plant used for smoking or ingesting. Cannabis can be consumed in many different forms in multiple ways, so we need to re-educate ourselves, colleagues and those we serve.
  2. There is soooo much we don’t know about this plant!—We know something about THC and CBD, and still more to learn about them, but what do we know about the 104 other active ingredients in cannabis? Not much. Are they harmful or helpful? We need to know. There will be a huge focus on primary research in the botanical sciences and merging that knowledge into the biomedical space. Interested in studying plants? There should be plenty of work available in that field as we move forward.
  3. Why recommending the minimum legal age be 18 years makes sense—It’s true the developing brain is vulnerable to harms associated with cannabis use until 25 years of age. Contrary to recommendations made by medial associations and others to set it higher, the task force made this recommendation for a number of valid reasons. First, it makes practical sense for Provinces and Territories to choose to harmonize it with their legal drinking age, three of which have set that age at 18. Second, although it seems counter intuitive to not set a higher age when the focus is to protect youth, setting the minimum age too high would encourage an illicit market targeting youth and thus, leaving them more vulnerable to the harms associated with unregulated substance content and criminal interaction. Third, most Canadians who report use of cannabis in the past year are 15-24 years of age. Usage falls off dramatically after age 25 to about 10%. If the legal age were 25, it would criminalize the bulk of users and wouldn’t have much of a harm reduction impact, now would it? The Task Force believes that with quality public education, most people by age 18 can make an informed decision.
  4. It’s a one-sided gender target market, so far—Males by far out-number females in terms of recreational cannabis consumption, approximately to the tune of 3:1. However, once legalized in Colorado, consumption did see a rise among females. It will be interesting to see if that holds true in Canada as well.
  5. Education is key: from creating clarity around legalization to promoting health and safety—Ms. McLellan noted that many members of the advocacy for recreational cannabis community only seem to hear the word “legalization”, while the word “regulation” is ignored. Just because it will become legal, doesn’t mean it’s a free for all for cannabis to be consumed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. People must be educated to understand the rules and be held accountable to them for the sake of public health and safety. And while we must move away from a psychology of prohibition to legal use, proper public education is required to address both the benefits and harms to mitigate both fear among those opposed to legalization and the misguided belief there are no harms associated with cannabis among the fervent advocates. To keep children and teens safer, longer, it is paramount that parents and other adults involved with youth, and youth themselves receive effective education about the potential harms to the developing brain ahead of legalization and on-going.

In a nutshell, there is much to learn about cannabis, its effects, and how to best legislate production, distribution, and use to promote public health and safety. Every aspect of society will be impacted in some way by legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis from perceived norms to business development to educational opportunities to health care to law enforcement to—you name it! Thus, the Task Force has recommended legislation that is cautious and flexible to respond to evolving knowledge and experience. As health educators and promoters, we must get ahead of legalization and teach the risks of developmental harms to youth and those associated with problematic patterns of use at any age. We must target and engage parents, health care providers, educators, community workers, and youth themselves to develop and evaluate effective tools about facts, norms, and making healthy, safe choices around cannabis, regardless of what the laws will look like.

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PAD to have a donation coin box at Ontario LCBO stores: April 23 – May 20, 2017

Parent Action on Drugs Communique

PAD to have a donation coin box at Ontario LCBO stores from April 23 – May 20, 2017

From Sunday April 23rd to Saturday May 20th, 2017, Parent Action on Drugs will have a  donation coin box on the counters of all 650+ LCBO stores in Ontario.

PAD has been a leader in providing Ontario teens with relevant information about alcohol and other drugs for over 30 years. We work directly with youth and their families to develop programs and resources that are meaningful to them and will make a difference in their lives. Our updated Parent Action Pack gives parents accessible and current information about alcohol and other drugs and how to have meaningful conversations with their teens about staying safe.

Donations will help PAD develop and distribute additional resources for parents and youth.

We encourage you to look for our coin box on LCBO counters from April 23rd to May 21st and make a donation.

Please share this with your networks and encourage them to spread the word.

We appreciate the support we receive through the LCBO Coin Box Donation program and hope you can join in with your donation!

For more information on PAD’s programs and resources, visit or call us at 416-395-4970.

Thank you for your support!

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PAD’s 2015-2016 Annual Report now available













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Notice of AGM

Notice of
2016 Annual General Meeting of Parent Action on Drugs
Monday, September 26, 2016
6:30 p.m.
North York Civic Centre, Committee Room #1
5100 Yonge Street, Toronto M2N 5V7



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Important Changes at PAD – Parent Action on Drugs

Parent Action on Drugs is pleased to share some exciting news about changes within our organization. As of May, 2016, Joanne Brown has assumed the role of Executive Director.  Joanne has been at PAD for over 25 years, in the roles of Program Director and Lead for PAD within HC Link.  Joanne will be applying her extensive management experience and health promotion knowledge to provide leadership for PAD as we continue to deliver evidence-based, innovative and responsive service within the substance misuse prevention field.

To complement Joanne’s new role, we are also pleased to announce that Jane McCarthy has joined PAD as Manager of Program Development.  Jane has over 25 years’ experience in the health promotion field, following completion of her Master of Public Health degree from the School of Public Health at UCLA and Master of Science, Health Behaviour from the University of Waterloo.  Her experience in the health charity sector has been as the Director of Services and Education with the ALS Society of Canada, and with The ALS Association, National Office in the U.S.  Most recently Jane has completed a contract role within the William Osler Health System.

Diane Buhler, PAD’s previous Executive Director for over 25 years, will remain on board at PAD in a consultative role to assist in the transition process as she works her way to full retirement in the fall.

The PAD team looks forward to our continuing work with partners, stakeholders and supporters to further our shared vision of healthy and informed youth, families and communities.

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PAD’s SFPY program featured in United Nations commissioned study on global “good practice” programs

After a long process, PAD’s Strengthening Families for Parent and Youth (SFPY) program has been selected as a global good practice in a report published by the American University of Beirut (AUB).


In March 2014, the UN Inter Agency Technical Task Team on Young People (UNIATTTYP) for the Middle East and North Africa/Arab States, began a process to document good and promising practices in adolescent and youth. The geographic focus was the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, but the project also looked at programs globally in order to recommend some “best buys” in adolescent programming that could be applied in the MENA region.

This project was spearheaded by UNICEF MENARO, who had partnered with the Outreach and Practice Unit (OPU) of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut. The age group the project focused on was 12-24 year olds, and thematic areas included employability, social protection, civic engagement, and health (among many others).

The process

The first phase was research on the part of AUB, who selected a few of PAD programs that could be considered good/best practices for youth aged 12-24. PAD’s programs were among the 169 potential good practices that the AUB had found regionally and globally. After looking at several of PAD’s programs, the AUB decided to focus on PAD’s SFPY program.

Second, the programs were rated based on a number of criteria: Effectiveness, Sustainability, Replication, Equity Analysis, Evidence-based, Innovation, Values Orientation, Youth Involvement. The SFPY program met this criteria and was selected as a potential good practice.

To validate the research made by AUB to this point, PAD participated in an in-depth interview about the SFPY program, where we shared more details with the researchers.

After the interview, the SFPY program was deemed by AUB to still meet the criteria listed above, and the researchers completed a report that explained the various aspects of the program.

The entire process above took around 8 months. After 8 months, the final stage of the process was for PAD to “validate” the write-up by the researchers. PAD and AUB had a back-and-forth consisting of report edits, and a few months later we were asked to provide some photos of the program.


Last month, we were contacted by AUB who had finalized the report. After such a long process, it was exciting for us to see the final result. The AUB did a great job at summarizing the key aspects of the program and why it is considered a “good practice”. It’s interesting to see that a Canadian-based program has potential for global audiences as well!

To read the full report, click here.

To see the other programs featured by the AUB, click here.

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PAD to have a donation coin box at Ontario LCBO stores: April 24 – May 21

Parent Action on Drugs Communique

PAD to have a donation coin box at Ontario LCBO stores from April 24 – May 21, 2016

From Sunday April 24th to Saturday May 21st, 2016, Parent Action on Drugs will have a donation coin box on the counters of all 630 LCBO stores in Ontario.

PAD is a leader in providing Ontario teens with relevant information about alcohol and other drugs for over 30 years.  PAD develops and disseminates a range of programs and resources for parents, youth, educators, health promoters and communities. We aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs through increasing informed decision-making and building resiliency among youth.

Examples of how PAD raises awareness about underage drinking:


We encourage you to look for our coin box on LCBO counters from April 24th to May 21st and make a donation.

Please share this with your networks and encourage them to spread the word.

For more information on PAD’s programs and resources, visit or call us at 416-395-4970.
Thank you for your support!

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PAD Blog: Policy Talk – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recently released a free online learning module to help better understand thePortfolio of Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention — a resource that guides teams on how they can improve their prevention work in the area of substance abuse.

I had the opportunity to go through the online learning module, and found it concise, informative, evidence-based, and interactive.

The module provides tools to help professionals in various sectors prevent youth substance abuse. It encourages the user to recognize that regardless of what sector they are working in, the work we all do as community service providers plays a role in substance abuse prevention. The module recognizes the importance of setting a strong foundation in the “youth years”.

The module also explains risk factors that youth are exposed to when growing up (ex. Conflict with the law, relationship issues, mental illness, etc.), as well as protective factors, noting the importance of minimizing the former and promoting the latter. CCSA also notes that substance abuse prevention does both of these things.

I have to admit, the discussion about risk and protective factors reminded me of Parent Action on Drugs’ Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth program, which is an evidence-based, preventative program that promotes youth resiliency.

What interested me the most in the module was the data on costs associated with substance abuse. In 2006, Canada spent almost $40 billion on substance abuse. These costs were often associated with healthcare, law enforcement, and the court system. I also found it interesting that 30% of charges in violent crimes are associated with alcohol abuse use.

However, the most surprising data for me was that for every dollar spent on substance use prevention, the government saves $15-$18 dollars. This data should be eye-opening for policymakers. Two years ago, I did a project for the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and similarly found that reducing recidivism rates (i.e. people going back into jail after they’ve been released) through promoting preventative interventions like mental health counselling, affordable housing, and employment skills workshops can also produce similar cost savings for the government.

I can’t help but think of the billions of dollars the government could save if it prioritized prevention initiatives. Policymakers need to recognize that prevention initiatives work and show results – not just in dollar terms, but also through the positive impact on society.

As the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

This blog was originally posted on the HC Link website at

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