Effects of Substance Use, Misuse, and Abuse | Ophea Teaching Tools

    Effects of Substance Use, Misuse, and Abuse

    Activity Card 1
    45 Minutes
    Topics: Alcohol, Critical Thinking, Substance Use
    Activity Overview

    Children will use critical and creative thinking skills to describe the short- and long-term effects of substance use.


    The educator observes children’s application of critical thinking skills, and demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the short- and long-term effects of substance use.


    Chart paper, Markers, T-Chart

    Minds On

    In a large-group discussion, children brainstorm situations and places where people their age may be exposed to youth and adults consuming legal or illegal substances (e.g., while watching a television show, in other media, in stores, at a party, etc.).


    As a large group, children brainstorm the effects of alcohol and cannabis use. Record children’s responses on chart paper using a T-chart, with one column for alcohol and one for cannabis.

    Using a separate T-Chart, children work in small groups to categorize the different symptoms of alcohol consumption or cannabis use in two categories, short- and long-term effects. If required, clarify the terms short- and long-term effects.

    Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Use:

    • increased or decreased heart rate
    • reduced coordination
    • slower reflexes
    • drowsiness
    • lowered inhibitions
    • slurred speech
    • impaired judgment and memory
    • red eyes and discolouration of the skin
    • relaxation of the eye muscles, making it difficult to focus
    • nausea and vomiting
    • loss of consciousness
    • alcohol poisoning
    • depression
    • anger

    Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Use:

    • memory loss
    • permanent brain and nerve damage
    • inflammation of the stomach
    • addiction
    • liver damage
    • financial problems
    • family and relationship issues
    • emotional problems
    • malnutrition
    • diseases of the stomach, digestive system, and pancreas
    • vitamin deficiency
    • cancer of the stomach
    • hypertension and heart disease

    Short-Term Effects of Cannabis Use:

    • Impairs the central nervous system, much in the way alcohol does (e.g., affects vision, impairs judgment, and reduces reaction time).
    • Use may cause paranoia or hallucinations.
    • May also cause decreased motor coordination, and increased heart rate. Makes it more difficult to concentrate, be motivated, and learn new facts.

    Not all the effects of cannabis are clear, because a young person's body is growing and developing, the impact could be much more serious than on an adult.

    Long-Term Effects of Cannabis Use:

    • Psychological dependence can occur, with some people experiencing physical withdrawal if they stop using cannabis. This is called an addiction.
    • Affects the respiratory system and delivers more tar to the lungs than tobacco does.
    • Heavy use in adolescence, when the brain is developing, may also cause problems with thinking and memory skills. If using regularly, a young person's circle of friends may change, and he or she may move toward a group that uses cannabis regularly.
    • The user may experience increased conflict with family members. With heavy use people can be more likely to be dishonest, and there can be a loss of trust.
    • Research continues to examine the effects of regular cannabis use, over the long-term, as this relates to memory and to emotional/behavioural aspects.

    Children will then share their T-Chart with a group studying the other topic to compare and contrast responses.

    Have them share, what they noticed about the effects of either alcohol or cannabis use on the human body, including the mind (mental health and overall well-being). For example, "I noticed that none of the effects of alcohol use is good for the body and can cause some pretty serious problems for people if they drink too much or too often."


    Children respond to the following questions as an Exit Card:

    1. How can peers influence your decisions about using alcohol or cannabis?
    2. How might you respond to those influences?
    3. How can the effects of substance use affect a person’s life?