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Alcohol & Other Drugs

You and Substance Use

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Stuff to think about...and ways to make changes

Author: Centre for Addictions Research of BC


Substance use is part of the human experience...
...That is, people around the world have been using tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and other drugs for various “human reasons” for thousands of years.

Like all things involving humans, substance use is complex (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

Ever wonder about your unique relationship with substances? Ever question your attitudes and actions related to substances? If so, read on. This booklet was developed to help you better understand your relationship with the substances you use.

You are unique

As an individual, you are a carefully crafted collection of qualities. Yes, you may share some of these qualities with your sister or friend or co-worker. And, of course, some of your traits are linked to when and where you were born and raised. But despite your connection to people and places around you, you are still the only you there is in this world.

Your relationship with substances is equally unique, precisely because no one has the same combination of genetics, life experiences, influences, and personality traits that you do. So even though you may use the same substance as your spouse, cousin or colleague, how and why you use that substance may be very different. And the effects may be very different too. For example, you may feel a bit more relaxed after one drink, while your brother starts feeling angry. Or, your friends might feel more light-hearted and alive after a few puffs of marijuana while you feel only paranoia and anxiety.

A substance may also affect you differently in the long term (after a long period of regular use). There are examples of this all around you. For instance, you probably know people who have smoked cigarettes and used alcohol their whole lives and have yet to experience a related health problem. They may have avoided relationship, financial and legal problems, too. But you likely also know people whose illness or death was directly linked to their use of tobacco and alcohol. And, chances are, their smoking and drinking pattern affected their marriage, education, career and/or finances, too.

Yes, you are unique. And your relationship with substances is unique. (Even the way you process and use the information and exercises in this booklet is unique!)

How to use this workbook

In the next sections, you'll find activities to help you think about your own substance use. You can print out a copy of the PDF and follow along, or simply grab a pen and a few sheets of paper.

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About the author

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The Centre for Addictions Research of BC is a member of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information. CARBC is an official research centre of the University of Victoria. The Centre collaborates with service providers and other stakeholders to support effective public education, system planning, and service delivery. For more, visit


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