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Great Youth Wellbeing: Substance Abuse and Addiction

What is the difference between substance abuse and addiction?

Substance abuse refers to the use of illegal substances or legal substances in a way that can be harmful. Prescription medication, alcohol, smoking, and vaping are all legal. However, their abuse can lead to serious legal, medical, or psychological consequences.

Addiction occurs when the person becomes dependent upon the substance. All addictions begin with substance abuse.

What can I do to avoid engaging in substance abuse?

  • If someone invites you to a party where substance abuse may be an issue, tell them that you cannot attend because you have other plans that you are unable to break.

  • If you are at a party and substance abuse is a part of it, tell the host that you need to leave because you received a call from your parents.

  • Just say “no.”

  • If you are uncomfortable saying these things, practice in front of a mirror until you feel comfortable.

How can I help myself or a friend who has a problem with addiction?

Whether the person with the addiction is you or someone you care about, find an adult you trust that you can talk to. You cannot stop other people from using, but finding support is important if you are emotionally connected to the addicted person. You can also let the addicted person know that you are there for them if they need someone to talk to.

Call HSE Drugs and Alcohol helpline. freephone on 1800 459 459 or Sent an email to

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