Alcohol Drugs and Youth

Parents, guardians and caregivers play a significant role in a child’s life. You are a role model. Stay connected by talking to your child, knowing their friends and being prepared.

Cannabis and parenting

Cannabis may affect your ability to safely take care of your baby or child. It is important to be attentive as your child grows and develop. It is through your attentive relationship that your child learns and thrives. Always ensure there is someone available who is not using cannabis to take care of your child.

If you are using cannabis it can affect your parenting by:

  • altering your perception
  • slowing your reaction time
  • making you drowsy/sleepy

As a result:

  • you may miss your child’s cues for hunger, comfort or attention
  • you may not be able to make good decisions

Some things to think about if you are using cannabis while parenting is:

  • second-hand smoke
  • cannabis can cause your child to become ill
  • cannabis can cause your child to become less alert

Keep your cannabis out of reach of children:

  • it is important to keep cannabis locked away
  • edible cannabis food products like baked goods and flavoured beverages can be tempting for children -  ensure they do not see them
  • if your child consumes cannabis by accident, seek medical attention right away
  • if you are growing cannabis keep the door locked, and ensure your child does not have access to your plants

View our Cannabis and Health Effects page

Facts about cannabis

Cannabis is illegal for anyone under the age of 19 to buy, use, posses or grow. Start the conversation about drugs (cannabis and others) with your kids. It is important because the bodies and brains of young people are still developing and cannabis can be harmful to them. Used regularly, cannabis can trigger changes and damage to the brain. Being open and talking often about drugs will help your kids make informed decisions.

Although most youth in Ontario do not use cannabis, even occasional use has its risks.

  • Early, frequent and ongoing use is linked with poor performance in school, lower grades and increased risk of dropping out.
  • Increased risk of mental health problems.
  • Using cannabis and other substances (e.g. tobacco, alcohol) at the same time can increase the chances of negative effects .
Have the conversation
 It is never too late to start the conversation:
  • Spend time together doing the things you enjoy; it is a great time to talk with your kids about drugs.
  • Be a good role model. Avoid using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress and avoid making them seem glamorous or a way to have fun.
  • Model ways to have fun that does not involve alcohol and drugs.
  • Develop rules with your child about alcohol and drugs. Stay calm if the rules are broken. Tell them you care about them and want to make sure they are happy and healthy.
  • Provide alcohol and drug-free events for your child and their friends.
  • Get to know your child's friends and their parents, and keep track of after school activities.

View the How to Talk to your Children about Cannabis infographic

Talking about cannabis and driving

Talk to your children early, openly and often about the effects of cannabis impaired driving. Your children understand drinking and driving is dangerous. Help them learn that cannabis impaired driving is too!

Cannabis reduces your ability to drive by impairing your:

  • memory
  • motor skills
  • balance and coordination
  • concentration and attention
  • judgement and decision making
  • reaction time

It is important to start the conversation with your children.

  • listen
  • be positive and supportive
  • don’t shame or lecture
  • if they call for a ride home, help them arrive safely. No questions asked.
  • tell them not to drive with someone who is high
  • suggest delaying experimenting with cannabis to help them make informed decisions
  • be prepared with facts


  • Driving high can double the risk of death and serious injury in a motor vehicle collision.
  • Two in five people have been a passenger with a cannabis impaired driver.
  • Drinking alcohol and using cannabis before driving increases the risk of getting into a collision.


Unintentional cannabis poisoning in children

When someone uses cannabis they can experience impaired attention, decision-making, and memory which can increase the risk for unsafe storage and disposal of cannabis products.

Common signs of cannabis toxicity in children include (but are not limited to):

  • a sudden onset of sleepiness or unresponsiveness
  • loss of muscle tone, muscle control and coordination
  • dilated pupils
  • fast and/or irregular heart beat
  • slow breathing

Unintentional cannabis poisoning in young children has been shown to increase significantly after legalization of cannabis.

Strategies to prevent unintended cannabis poisonings in children:

  • Make sure you dispose of all unused cannabis and cannabis-related products.
  • If you use cannabis by smoking or using it in vaporizers, use outside to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke and vape.
  • Use out of sight of children, particularly when using edible forms of cannabis, which may be mistaken for regular food or drink items.
  • Ensure your cannabis is kept in a child-resistant package and placed in a locked area out of reach and out of sight of children.
  • If you grow cannabis plants at home, create a dedicated grow space with controlled access (i.e., strong locks and other safeguards such as an alarm).
  • If you think a child has eaten cannabis or products that contain cannabis seek medical attention right away.

To report a poisoning or for information call the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017.

For more information read the Ontario Poison Centre’s information on Cannabis and Kids.

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