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Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services - Information for parents

Tools for parents who are looking for ways to help their children make healthy choices in their life.

Information for parents

We have a wide selection of pamphlets and resources to assist parents. Our services are confidential. We can talk with you on the phone, meet with you in our offices, or send you out an information package gathered to meet your specific needs. To find answers to your questions about alcohol, other drugs, and addictions please call us. We would be pleased to help you find the information that you need.

Helpful links for parents

Resources for parents

“Party night? Don’t forget to plan ahead!" This pocket sized resource for high school students has been developed by the Yukon government and many stakeholders. The cards give tips on how to party safely and also state the signs and symptoms of drug-related overdoses to help youth recognize them.

Delaying age of first alcohol use

Adolescence – that’s what your kids are going through if they are between 10 and 20 years old. During this time many new things are happening to their bodies and brains – changes to help prepare them for life away from your family. Risk taking is adaptive to a certain extent and it helps adolescents to learn – to be curious, to feel grown up, to relax, to fit in. Unfortunately, alcohol sometimes plays a role in this risk taking.1

Early alcohol use as a predictor for later use

Although most young people that use drugs don’t get into problem use or dependency,2 there is research indicating that drinking at an early age increases the risk of later alcohol abuse. Studies indicate that 40% of youth that drank before the age of 15 were likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol later in life; this is four times the rate of those who started drinking at age 20 or later. Delaying the age of the first use of alcohol is an important goal in prevention of substance abuse.3

Alcohol’s effect on the brain

More than just as a predictor of substance abuse problems in later life, adolescent alcohol use has significant immediate consequences for youth. An adolescent’s brain is still being shaped and developed. Therefore, adolescents are more vulnerable than adults to many of the effects of alcohol, such as memory loss, brain damage, and altered brain development.4 The brain goes through a spurt of development in the teen years including a remodelling of the frontal lobes – where planning, decision-making, impulse control, memory, language, and attention occur. Binge drinking (excessive amounts of alcohol each time) negatively affects the central nervous system (CNS). Studies indicate that this repeated withdrawal (the hangover after each binge) can lead to long-lasting deficits, such as learning, memory and attention problems.5 This remodelling ability or brain “plasticity” decreases as we enter our adult years, making it difficult to undo any changes that developed in adolescence.6

What’s happening with Yukon youth?

In a 2004 Yukon Addiction Survey of the general population, of the 135 respondents between the ages of 15 and 24 who consumed alcohol in the past 12 months, 51% were involved in heavy drinking. This was broken down as follows:

  • 21% were ‘heavy infrequent’ drinkers (binge of 5 or more drinks less than once a week)
  • 30% were ‘heavy frequent’ drinkers (binge of 5 or more drinks once a week or more often)
  • 35% were ‘light infrequent’ drinkers (less than 5 drinks once a week)
  • 14% were ‘light frequent’ drinkers (less than 5 drinks once a week or more often).

What’s the big deal about drinking?

In addition to the concerns related to increased potential to develop a substance abuse problem later in life and the effects on the developing adolescent brain, alcohol use is more likely to kill teens than all other illicit drugs combined. Traffic accidents are the number 1 killer of teens.7

Because your child is normally going through changes as they mature, it may be difficult to recognize some of the indicators that they may be using alcohol and/or drugs. The following are a list of some of the possible changes to watch for:

  • Changes in school performance.
  • Changes in attitudes toward sports and other activities.
  • Changes in weight or physical appearance.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Changes in friends.
  • Changes in behaviour.8
  • Wearing clothing with drug emblems.
  • Collecting drug paraphernalia.
  • Unusual chemical smells (solvent use).

For more information on signs and symptoms of adolescent alcohol or drug use, check out some of the ‘helpful links for parents’ listed below.

If you are concerned that your child may be experimenting with alcohol or drugs and would like more information, you can contact the Prevention Unit see below for contact information.

Contact info

Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services - Prevention


Phone: 867-456-3838


Fax: 867-667-8471

Mailing Address:

Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services - Prevention (H-7)
Health & Social Services, Government of Yukon
Box 2703
Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2C6

Location: Sarah Steele Building |609 Steele Street | Whitehorse, Yukon [map]


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