Substance Awareness Guide

Student holding a stack of papers separated by clips.

Being on your own for the first time means that you may encounter situations where you have the choice to consume substances. If you watch any college movie, it appears that partying is the norm, and you may have concerns about this. But did you know that in a recent survey of Western residence students, 85% reported they drink alcohol once a week or not at all? We encourage students who choose to consume alcohol or cannabis to do so safely and responsibly, so read this guide to educate yourself.

Responsible Consumption

If you are of age and choose to consume alcohol or cannabis, be aware of their associated impacts. When you consume, stay within your limit; take days off from consuming if needed; if you're away from home, make plans to get home safely; and never mix alcohol and cannabis.

How Much is Too Much?

Young adults who choose to consume alcohol or cannabis might not be aware of their limits or the dangers of consuming. Binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks on one occasion. Monitor your consumption and be aware of the signs of dangerous consumption.

Signs of Dangerous Consumption

Memory loss; passing out; fighting; frequent hangover or being late for class; using alcohol or cannabis to cope with stress; consuming alone and often; allowing alcohol or cannabis to interfere with your health, school work, or relationships; mass consumption, including binge drinking.

Sober Strategies

  • Bring a small amount of money if you go out.
  • Purchase or make non-alcohol drinks that look like alcoholic beverages but are not (e.g., ginger ale in a glass with ice and a lime).
  • Talk to a student leader for tips on what to say OR, simply tell people you don't want to consume!

How to Avoid Over-Intoxication

  • Have food in your stomach to increase your metabolism, helping you process the alcohol or cannabis.
  • Limit your total consumption and track how much you're using.
  • Pace yourself–consume slowly.
  • Mix your own drinks if consuming alcohol and purchase your own cannabis from Ontario licensed retailers.
  • Avoid taking straight shots of alcohol.
  • Drink water and stay hydrated.

The Risks of Consuming

  • Being refused entry into an event or getting kicked out for being under the influence.
  • Physical discomfort from vomiting, anxiety, dizziness or hallucinations, and hangovers.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Risk to brain development if cannabis consumption starts before the age of 25.
  • Increased possibility of engaging in risky behaviour.

Cannabis and Other Drugs

Cannabis use is a personal choice. If you're going to consume, take the time to understand its impacts and your personal boundaries. Regarding cannabis in residence, refer to your residence contract for more information. The consumption of illicit drugs can have a significant impact on your health, academics, and social life. Consumption of illicit drugs is illegal and strictly prohibited in residence.

Check Your Drinking and Cannabis Use

Complete a "Check Your Drinking" and a "Check Your Cannabis Use" online self-assessment before arriving to campus. Participants who reflect on their own consumption behaviours are more likely to reduce their overall consumption. Take the anonymous alcohol consumption and cannabis use quizzes.

If you or someone you know would like to seek help or more information, email