Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

June 21, 2010 09:53 ET

Canadian Association of Principals Endorses New Standards to Strengthen Substance Abuse Prevention Efforts in Schools

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 21, 2010) - The Canadian Association of Principals (CAP) has endorsed the first-ever national standards of excellence for substance abuse prevention initiatives in Canadian schools. The new standardsBuilding on Our Strengths: Canadian Standards for School-based Youth Substance Abuse Preventionwere released today by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and will soon be distributed to CAP's 5,000 members—elementary, middle and high schools—across Canada.

Developed by Canadian prevention experts under the leadership of CCSA, the School-based Standards are the most comprehensive resource available to support the work of school/board staff and other public health or addictions prevention professionals undertaking school-based prevention initiatives. Consisting of 17 standards, seven guiding principles and an accompanying workbook, the School-based Standards will help schools assess, develop and implement comprehensive drug abuse prevention initiatives.

"The School-based Standards are an excellent resource for administrators," remarks Bill Tucker, Eastern Vice President of CAP. "We strongly support this resource as it provides a much needed common language, process and starting point for the development of prevention programming that will guide administrators and their teams through a practical process that has been vetted by some of the best experts in the field across Canada."

As a Principal at an alternative school, and as the former Principal of Youth Corrections' Secure Custody and Remand Services in Newfoundland and Labrador, Tucker has spent most of his career dealing with "at-risk" students. His experience has made him acutely aware of the devastating effects of substance abuse and its related harms on Canadian youth, their families and social institutions.

"Strengthening substance abuse prevention initiatives in schools is vital, as it is during adolescence that many youth typically first experience substance use—which can be as young as 11 among some groups of high-risk youth," says Rita Notarandrea, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at CCSA. "Early experience with drug use and hazardous patterns of drug-using behavior during adolescence are serious risk factors for developing long-standing problems that continue into adulthood, including dependence and chronic diseases."

Research shows that 60% of illicit drug users are 15–24 years old, and youth who use frequently, heavily or in hazardous contexts are more likely to experience a range of immediate and longer-term harms, which may affect school performance in a number of ways:

  • A student who is intoxicated or hung over during the school day learns less, and an ongoing pattern will interfere with academic performance;
  • Young people have not reached full maturity physically, psychologically or socially, and substance use may affect brain development and interrupt crucial developmental processes; and
  • Student substance use is often associated with other social or emotional difficulties and disruptive behaviour that affect the social and academic environment for others.

The School-based Standards call for the implementation of a comprehensive health approach to prevention that takes into consideration a school's social and physical environments, teaching and learning, partnerships and services, and healthy school policy.

"They highlight the importance of incorporating substance use prevention efforts into the core mission and practices of health-promoting schools as part of a global school health initiative," stated Notarandrea. "The funding support from the Federal Government's National Anti-Drug Strategy has been instrumental in helping us develop this resource."

"Building on Our Strengths should be required reading for anyone participating in school-based substance abuse prevention programs," says Tucker. "It is an invaluable guide."


The School-based Standards are one of several sets of standards being developed with the aim of strengthening the effectiveness of prevention efforts across Canada. CCSA will soon be releasing Stronger Together: Canadian Standards for Community-based Youth Substance Abuse Prevention and Canadian Guidelines for Family-based Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training: A Supplement to the Canadian Standards for School- and Community-based Youth Substance Abuse Prevention

Together, these documents will establish benchmarks for performance and set the stage for integrated, evidence-informed substance abuse prevention programs across Canada.

The Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention are a component of A Drug Prevention Strategy for Canada's Youth—a collaborative effort, led by CCSA and key partners, aimed at reducing illicit drug use among Canadian youth aged 10–24. This initiative is part of the federal government's National Anti-Drug Strategy.

For additional background information, please click here.

About CCSA (

With a legislated mandate to reduce alcohol- and other drug-related harms, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse provides leadership on national priorities, fosters knowledge translation within the field, and creates sustainable partnerships that maximize collective efforts. CCSA receives funding support from Health Canada.

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