The overall aims of this Healthy Living 8 unit are to strengthen students’ understanding of the factors that influence substance-use decisions and to help them make healthy substance-use decisions. An important ingredient of sound decision making is having a clear understanding of risks and harms linked to substance use—those concerning alcohol and cannabis mainly will be presented. The remainder of the unit aims to increase knowledge and skills pertaining to family and media influences.

The assumption here is that alcohol and/or cannabis will still be the substances of choice and most easily available. However, the Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey 2007 shows that hallucinogens (mescaline or psilocybin) are the third most frequently used category of psychoactive substances. The Healthy Living curriculum also identifies a discussion of over-the-counter and prescription drug misuse as required outcomes for grade 8 students. The best knowledge available on junior high school–level drug education advises that the program focus on the drugs that are available to students rather than provide a broad education on all substances. Yet, what is available and what is in use can change at a faster pace than survey data can report. This first lesson in grade 8 is designed to help teachers identify what other substances are available to their students to help them tailor the activity plans to those specific substances.