Substance Use

Substance use may be part of your experience while attending university, but it is not part of every student’s. Actually, according to a recent survey done at the University of Manitoba, students overestimated how much and how often their fellow peers were using substances.

The use of alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, and other substances all come with risks to your health and wellbeing. In order to make informed choices about your substance use, it is important to know the risks and how to keep yourself as safe as possible if you choose to use substances or party with them.

Alcohol is a drug that slows down parts of your brain. Drinking alcohol can make you feel more relaxed. It can also make it harder to think clearly, make good decisions and do various tasks. BINGE DRINKING is having many drinks on one occasion: five or more drinks for a male, or four or more drinks for a female. These rules apply for wine, beer and liquor.

What's happening here:

Do as your fellow students do...

  • 1 in 5 students identified that they do not drink alcohol
  • 1 in 4 students choose not to drink alcohol when they socialize or party
  • 85% use a designated driver when they party
  • 85% keep track of how much they're drinking
  • 61% choose to avoid drinking games

Spotlight on alcohol use

  • Excessive use of alcohol can impact your mental health and the success of your interpersonal relationships.
  • Alcohol shortens your attention span for up to 48 hours after drinking, affecting your ability to learn and work effectively, which can eventually lead to poor grades.
  • Drinking may decrease arousal and sexual response, which can impact how much pleasure you experience from sex with a consensual partner.
  • Drinking can also affect athletic performance because it dehydrates you and reduces stamina.

Take action

  • Visit the AFM community support worker on campus to explore your relationship with alcohol or to discuss help for those you care about
  • Join the U of M student group Students Against Drunk Driving
  • Make a plan before you go out
    • Remember to eat and try to stick to no more than 2 drinks in 3 hours.
    • If you’re offered a drink that you don't see poured, decline.
    • For every drink you consume, have a glass of water
    • Avoid drinking games
    • Keep track of how many drinks you’ve had
    • Have a designated driver, set aside cash for a taxi at the end of the night, or know the bus schedule

Alcohol use resources

On campus

  • Addictions Foundation of Manitoba Community Support Worker c/o Student Counselling Centre, 474 UMSU University Centre, 204-474-8592
  • University Health Service, 104 UMSU University Centre: 204-474-8411
  • Health and Wellness Office: 469 UMSU University Centre
  • Healthy U:

Off campus

  • Manitoba Addictions Helpline: Toll-free 1-855-662-6605
  • Addictions Foundation of Manitoba: General Inquiries 204-944-6200, Toll-free 1-866-638-2561


  • Canadian center on substance abuse – drinking guidelines and supports:
  • Free apps: Arrive alive and SaferRide

PDF version

*Data compiled from spring 2016 NCHA survey.
Source: Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2017.
Additional sources and references are available at:

Alcohol can affect your concentration, decision making and your overall health.

The way alcohol affects you depends on various factors: how much you drink and how quickly, if you’ve been eating before and while drinking, your body weight/size, age and gender, medications you’re on, and your overall health.

Tips to reduce your risk

  • Limit the amount you drink – every drink increases your risk for injury
  • Eat before and while you drink
    • Eating while drinking slows alcohol absorption
  • Drink alcohol only if you want to drink – don't feel pressured to drink
    • Try to remember that close to 20% of other students don't drink, you're not alone
  • Keep track of the amount of alcohol you consume
    • Checkmarks on a calendar, 3x5 card that fits in your wallet or one of the many drink tracker apps available at the play store or iTunes
  • Avoid triggers
    • If certain people, or activities trigger you to drink, try avoiding those triggers or plan ahead
  • Choose not to drive
    • Arrange for a friend or family member to pick you up.
    • Set aside money for a taxi
    • Take turns being the DD with your friends so that everyone has a safe ride home
    • If you cannot arrange a ride, choose not to drink

What is a standard drink?

  • Beer – 341ml (12oz) of 5% alcohol content = 1 drink
  • Cooler – 341ml (12oz) of 5% alcohol content = 1 drink
  • Wine – 142ml (5oz) of 12% alcohol content = 1 drink
  • Hard alcohol 43ml (1.5oz) of 40% alcohol content = 1 drink

When is zero the limit?

  • Driving a vehicle or using machinery
  • When taking medicine that could potentially interact with alcohol
  • During any kind of dangerous physical activity
  • Living with mental or physical health problems
  • Pregnant or planning to conceive
  • When you're responsible for the safety of others
  • When you're making important decisions

To see the full set of guidelines, visit:

In Manitoba, alcohol consumption is legal for those 18 years of age or older. Alcohol may only be consumed on private property or in licensed areas (such as a bar or beer garden).

Driving after consuming alcohol can be extremely dangerous for yourself, your passengers, and others on the road. For information regarding legal limits, visit

In accordance with legislation, alcohol consumption is only permitted in designated areas on campus, such as The Hub. Drinking is not permitted on the majority of campus.

  • On campus:
    • Health & Wellness Program: 469 UMSU Univeristy Centre
    • Student Counselling Centre: 474 UMSU University Centre
      • AFM counsellor available on-site
    • Healthy U: Peer health educators:
  • Off campus:
    • Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM): 1090 Portage Ave.
  • Manitoba addictions helpline

What's happening here

U of M students were asked how prevalent they think cannabis is among students...


  • 12% of students have never used marijuana
  • 21% of students haven't used marijuana in the last 30 days


  • 68% of students have never used marijuana
  • 90% of students haven't used marijuana in the last 30 days

Spotlight on cannabis

  • Cannabis can affect your physical, mental, emotional, and social health.
  • Cannabis can impair memory and attention span, as well as increase anxiety.
  • Your ability to drive safely can be impaired for 6 hours after using cannabis.
  • It is possible to become addicted to cannabis.

Take action

  • Join the 90% of students who do not smoke marijuana regularly, or remain one of 68% that have never used it.
  • When cutting down on cannabis usage, try adding less to each joint/pipe/bowl in order to reduce your intake.
  • Avoid synthetic cannabinoids (like K2 or Spice), as these have much higher health risks.
  • Ask yourself why you use cannabis. Does it relieve stress or help you relax? Find a healthier way to meet these needs.
  • Avoid smoking your cannabis. If you're going to use, vapourizers or edibles are your safest option as long as you know how much you're having.
  • Know your personal risks. If you have a family member with mental illness, cannabis can increase your risk of developing the same.

Cannabis resources

On campus:

  • Health and Wellness Office: 469 UMSU University Centre
  • Student Counselling Centre: 474 UMSU University Centre - Addictions Foundation of Manitoba Community Support Worker on campus
  • University Health Service, 104 UMSU University Centre: 204-474-8411
  • Healthy U:

Off campus:

  • Addictions Foundation of Manitoba: 204-944-6200


PDF version

*Data compiled from spring 2016 NCHA survey.
Source: Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2017.
Additional sources and references are available at:

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a drug that is derived from a plant. There are three main forms of cannabis:

  • Marijuana (also called pot, weed, or grass): the dried leaves and flowers of the plant.
  • Hashish (hash): A dried resin from the top of the plant.
  • Hash oil: a sticky oil made from hashish. It is often put in small bottles or caps.


Cannabis is legal in Canada (since October 17, 2018) for individuals ages 19+. Only cannabis purchased in licensed stores will be legal, and there will be limits on how much you can possess at once. Cannabis will only be legal to use in private property (i.e. at home), and will be completely banned from the U of M. For more information, visit

University Policy

The University of Manitoba’s policy on cannabis use will be in accordance with provincial legislation. This means the following:

  • Smoking and vaporizing cannabis is prohibited on campus
  • Growth of cannabis is prohibited on campus
  • Sale of cannabis is prohibited on campus.

Medicinal use of cannabis is restricted to those with a valid prescription, and must be in accordance with the University’s Clean Air Procedure.

Your Health and Cannabis Use

Whether you use cannabis (also called weed or marijuana) regularly or only once in a while, there can be risks involved. What you do about your cannabis use and your safety is up to you, but research has provided some recommendations.

In the same way that it is important to keep an eye on your diet and how it affects your health, it is important to understand your cannabis use and how it may effect your body and your life. Cannabis may effect your physical, mental, emotional, and social health. It is important to practice self-care, however this may look for you.

Everyone responds differently to cannabis and has their own risk factors for harm (such as pre-existing mental illness, family members with addictions, poor coping skills, lung conditions, and many more). While it's tough to say what might happen to you specifically, here are some of the more common problems associated with cannabis use:

  • Mental health problems (anxiety, psychosis, depression, suicide): You are at a higher risk if one of your immediate family members has a mental illness, and using cannabis can worsen any mental illnesses you already have. For example, if you already experience anxiety cannabis can make it worse (despite being typically described as relaxing).
  • Social problems: If cannabis is a common activity for you and your friends, you may begin to have trouble socializing when you don't want to use. Your cannabis use may also cause tension with family or friends who don't use or who disagree with your choices.
  • Physical problems: Cannabis can affect your appetite, therefore affecting the choices you make about your nutrition. Cannabis can also affect your memory, attention span, and ability to make decisions. Smoking cannabis can damage your lungs and either cause or worsen lung infections, asthma, or emphysema.
  • Addiction: Although many people say you can't become addicted to cannabis, this is a myth. In fact, about 1 in 5 Canadians who received treatment for substance use had cannabis-related problems.

These recommendations are in accordance with Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.


Like anything else that can be harmful, the best way to keep yourself safe is to not use the substance at all. When thinking about using cannabis, consider the risks and the benefits.

Defer Use

Harms from cannabis use have been linked to starting at an early age, which may be related to brain development. Since your brain isn't fully developed until your mid-twenties, consider waiting until then to try cannabis.

Use Cannabis with Lower THC

Cannabis is made up of a few different components, including THC and CBD. THC is the part that can cause hallucinations and is responsible for most of the harms of cannabis use. CBD counter-acts some of the THC, meaning it can make your cannabis more safe. If possible, try using cannabis products with less THC and more CBD - this is often referred to as a high CBD:THC ratio.

Avoid Synthetic Cannabinoids

Health risks are much higher in synthetic cannabis products, such as K2 or Spice. If you want to lower your risk, avoid these products.

Avoid Smoking

You have probably heard that inhaling smoke is bad for your lungs - this applies to smoking cannabis too. Try non-inhaled methods such as edibles or vaporizers. Just remember that edibles often contain higher doses of cannabis, so be aware of how much you're using.

Avoid Deep Inhalation

If you're going to be inhaling your cannabis (i.e. smoking a joint), avoid deep inhalation or holding your breath before exhaling, as these expose your lungs to more smoke. Try inhaling less smoke with each puff, and exhaling sooner than you would have before.

Use Less Often

The risks associated with cannabis use are linked to how often you use it. If you use cannabis daily or almost every day, you are at a much higher risk for problems (either right away or later on) than if you use it once a week or only on weekends.

Don’t Use and Drive

Cannabis can make it harder to concentrate, make judgement calls, and have control over your physical actions. This means that driving while using can be very dangerous. While everyone responds to cannabis differently, you typically need to wait 6 hours after using before it is safe to drive.

Know Your Other Risks

If you have a first-degree relative (i.e. a parent or sibling) with an addiction or who experiences psychosis, you have a much higher risk of developing the same. If you are pregnant, cannabis can harm the fetus as well. Know what makes you a higher risk for troubles than others, and weigh this in to your decision about whether or not to use.

Avoid Combining Risks

While each of the risks described here can cause issues on their own, it is even more dangerous to combine these risks (i.e. using high-THC cannabis every day). Try eliminating as many risk factors as you can in order to keep yourself as safe as possible.

If you are concerned about your cannabis use for any reason, seek help! There are many resources available for a variety of issues.

Healthy U

Many people have found that peer health educators are a really helpful way of receiving support for their cannabis use. Our Healthy U volunteers are able to share ways you can protect yourself while using cannabis, direct you towards appropriate resources if you want help, and be a set of listening ears if you just want to talk about your experiences or struggles. Visit their Facebook page: to find out their office hours, and then drop by 474 UMSU University Centre to have a chat or to pick up information.

Student Counselling Centre – 474 UMSU University Centre

If you would like counselling regarding your substance use, the Student Counselling Centre has an Addictions Foundation of Manitoba counsellor on site.

University Health Services – 104 UMSU University Centre

If you have concerns about the effects of cannabis on your physical health, visit University Health Services on campus, or see your family doctor.

Addictions Foundation of Manitoba – 1031 Portage Avenue or on campus

If you are seeking help for an addiction, consider meeting with an AFM counsellor at the Student Counselling Centre. You can also visit AFM's website at for a list of services and contact numbers.

Klinic – 870 Portage Avenue

If you are struggling with your mental health and are not comfortable seeing someone on campus, visit Klinic for support. For hours and services, visit

Information adapted from Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse & Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).

What is naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication that reverses overdose caused by opioids and can save a person’s life. It does not work on overdose caused by other drugs. The purpose of a take-home naloxone program is to get naloxone into the hands of people who are most likely to be there during an opioid overdose as minutes and seconds count to save a life.

Why is it important?

There have been a significant number of overdoses and deaths related to legal and illicit fentanyl use across Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada.

Even if a person does not choose to specifically use the drug fentanyl, fentanyl is being cut in or laced into other drugs such as cocaine, oxycodone, heroin and other club drugs such as MDMA without the user knowing. This is especially dangerous for first time or occasional users.

There are many places you can access naloxone throughout Manitoba. The Street Connections website has a tool that can help you find a location close to you:

If I am worried about a roommate, classmate or family member who uses drugs, how can I get my own kit?

Naloxone kits are available for purchase by anyone, without a prescription, at several locations around Winnipeg and Manitoba. To read more about how to access a naloxone kit in the community click here (PDF).

Note: Individuals who have health coverage under First Nations Inuit Health are eligible for free naloxone kits from locations that are selling them. Consult the pharmacy for more information.

Will the University, my family, or my professors be notified that I am a drug user?

The primary goal of naloxone programs are to keep everybody safe and healthy. No one will be notified that you have received a kit, and your information stays entirely confidential.

If I use drugs, can I get a free naloxone kit anywhere else?

There is an interactive map on the Street Connections website that shows places where take-home-naloxone kits can be accessed for free by people who meet the necessary criteria.

Can I bring someone with me to the appointment?

Yes. In fact, it is best if the person comes in with another person who is close to them (partner, roommate, family member) who is likely to be present if they overdose. These other people will also be offered training on how to respond to opioid overdose but will not be given a kit.

If a person is overdosing on opioid drugs, can I save their life without using naloxone?

Yes, in most cases the person needs oxygen, so call 911 and start rescue breathing if the person is not breathing effectively.

I would like to learn more about fentanyl and preventing or responding to overdose:

On campus information:

Other information:

Opioids, also known as narcotics, are a form of very strong pain relievers. Some of these drugs can be prescribed, but they are also found in street form. Examples include:

  • Fentanyl and carfentanil
  • Morphine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Codeine and T3’s
  • Percocet
  • Tramadol and Tramacet
  • Oxycodone
  • Heroin

Opioids tend to be very addictive, even for people who are only using what they have been prescribed. If someone uses too much of any opioid, they are at risk for respiratory depression – in other words, their breathing may slow to a stop.

The Opioid Crisis
In the past few years, Canada has seen an increase in deaths from opioid overdose. In 2017, Manitoba had 86 deaths, and Canada had 3,987. It is more important now than ever that we learn about safer use of opioids.

Reduce Your Risks
While using opioids in any way other than as prescribed can be dangerous, some people still choose to use opioids. Here are some things to consider to improve your safety:

  • Use clean needles and syringes: Find somewhere that distributes clean needles and syringes, such as Street Connections ( Many walk-in clinics also offer this service. Re-using or sharing needles can be very dangerous, as you risk getting HIV and Hepatitis C (both of which can be serious and life-threatening). Use a new needle each time.
  • Buddy system: If you’re using, make sure you’re with a friend who doesn’t use, in case you overdose.
  • Watch your dose: Remember that while you may build up a tolerance to higher doses, if you haven’t used in a while you may not be able to handle what you used to.
  • Avoid pregnancy: If you use opioids while pregnant, there can be very serious problems for the fetus, such as premature delivery or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
  • Use somewhere safe: Try not to use in unsafe places or around people you don’t trust.


Quitting opioids can be very difficult, especially if you have become addicted. There are many resources available, including Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, who has a counsellor on campus in the Student Counselling Centre.

Methadone is another option which can make the process of rehabilitation more effective. It does not cure the addiction, but it can reduce cravings for drugs. Being on this treatment also makes it harder to experience a high from other drugs. When taken appropriately, it will not make you feel high or drugged, and many people have said it helped them live a more normal life. Methadone treatment is available through Opiate Addiction Treatment Services, which has locations on Main Street and Pembina Hwy.

Resources for Help
Whether you are looking to quit, cut down on use, or just to receive help, there are many options available:
Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM): 1031 Portage Ave.

  • AFM also has a counsellor on the Fort Garry campus in the Student Counselling Centre.

Student Counselling Centre: 474 UMSU University Centre
University Health Services or your family doctor

  • Opioids can have harmful effects on your body, so it’s a good idea to get checked out by your doctor on a regular basis.