Update: Learn more about the integration of Counselling and Mental Health Services and the new Psychiatric Services.


There is no single factor that can predict how someone will respond to using substances, or determine whether or not someone will develop problems relating to substance use. Substance abuse factorsTherefore, it is essential that we not only learn as much as we can about the different substances and how they work, but also learn about ourselves and how our individual makeup can have an impact on how substances affect us.

Our unique response to substances is influenced by a combination of both risk and protective factors that includes individual biology and psychology, family and social environments, and the nature and context of the substance used. Put simply, the more risk factors and less protective factors an individual has, the greater the chance using substances can lead to harmful consequences, and potentially substance misuse. 

Below are some of the important factors involved in determining how substances may impact you:

Individual factors

Genetics; any chronic health issue (e.g., psychiatric condition, medical illness, disability); early onset of use; traumas of any form; personality traits of impulsivity, compulsivity, and sensation seeking; mood regulation difficulties (e.g., depression, anxiety); cognitive dysfunction (e.g., difficulty with executive function); positive experiences related to substance use.

Environmental factors

Family environment (e.g., having a member of the family system misusing substances, family violence, low parental monitoring); access and/or exposure to substances; peer influence; unique environmental stressors (e.g., loss, major disappointment); societal norms and media modeling.

Substance used; quantity used; quality or purity of the product; frequency of consumption; speed of consumption; administration method; combination with other products; context (e.g., location, ambiance, time of day); mental state (e.g., mood at the time of use).