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Adolescent Medicine

Substance Abuse Program

The Substance Abuse Program (click for brochure) provides Day Treatment Services and Outpatient Services.

Through both services the program provides:

  • Assessment and treatment for teens up to 18 years of age.
  • A parent program and support for families or guardians of teens in the program - upcoming parent group dates will be announced soon
  • Comprehensive health assessment and medical follow-up as needed.
  • Education about adolescent alcohol and substance use and abuse.

Substance Abuse Day Treatment Program

  • The program hours are Monday to Friday during the school year from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • There is a maximum of 8 to 10 teens in the program.
    Individual treatment is aimed at reducing or eliminating substance use in accordance with the program’s harm reduction philosophy.
  • An academic program is available with opportunities for the teens to work towards secondary school credits with the Toronto District Secondary School teacher, instructing Ministry of Education curriculum.
  • Daily treatment groups, life skills instruction and ongoing individual counselling and support are also available.
  • Health assessment and education, with ongoing follow-up available from paediatricians. Programming that promotes involvement with healthy non-substance related activities.

Substance Use Day Treatment Summer School Program - July 2 to 26, 2019

The Substance Abuse Day Treatment Program is a unique opportunity for teens who recognize their alcohol/ or substance use has impacted their lives and are looking to make changes. Our summer program offers a blend of therapeutic, individual and group support while simultaneously working on attaining an academic credit.

Our Program Offers:

  • Day Treatment for teens who are looking to make changes in regards to their substance use using a Harm Reduction Model
  • Are interested in attaining a ‘Food and Nutrition’ Secondary School Credit with a Toronto District Secondary School teacher
  • Have an adult to support them while in the program
  • Access to health care and individual counselling
  • Possible placement for full time program in September 2019

For more information about the Day Treatment Summer Program please call (416) 813 5097 or (416) 813 8854

Substance Abuse Outpatient Program

  • Outpatient counselors (which include social workers, art and music therapists) conduct assessments and provide short and long term individual and/or parent counselling.
  • Outpatient staff are also available to facilitate education sessions around issues relating to substance use and abuse for community organizations or teams
  • Health assessment and education, with ongoing follow-up available from paediatricians.

Substance Abuse Parent Support Program

Parent education and support is a core aspect of our programming. Parents are often at a point where they are no longer sure what they should or should not be doing to help their teen. They may be exhausted, managing other family and life stresses, and extremely worried about their teen. Our program counsellors provide daytime and evening consultations on an individual basis for parents of teens who have problematic substance use.

  • Teens do not have to be attending counselling in the program for parents to receive service.
  • Evening parent educational and support/treatment groups are offered on a frequent basis.

 Upcoming Parent Groups

1. Summer Life Raft for Parents of Teens who Use Substances

A Single Evening Parent Session - Dates - TBA

This single group session offers support and strategies for parents dealing with teens who use substances.  Adolescent substance use and acting out behaviour can increase over the summer months when there is no school to provide structure to a teen’s life. This is challenging for parents who still have to go to work but worry about what is happening at home. In addition, acting out adolescents can take an uncooperative stance toward family vacation plans, sometimes derailing them altogether.

This session offers practical and compassionate ways to address difficult behaviour.  It also gives a brief introduction to mindfulness practice, to help parents stay grounded through their teens’ behavioural summer storms.

For more information, please email Mindfulness.groups@Sickkids.ca or call Mary Bell at 416-813-8687

Ongoing individual support is also available for parents of adolescents who use substances. This can be arranged by calling the phone number above.

2.  Listening For The Door: Stepping in With Awareness and Compassion When Teens Use Substances

A series of four evening parent sessions

Fall Dates: TBA 

This series introduces parents of young people who use substances to a mindful and compassionate approach for managing their teens’ risky, self-destructive behaviour.  It includes some experiences with practicing mindfulness and, based on moment-to-moment awareness of teens’ actions, provides parents with a framework for understanding difficult behaviour. It offers practical solutions to some common problems, along with the opportunity to develop specific strategies that will be effective for each individual teen and family

This four-session series is the first of two different series offered to parents of high school aged teens by the Adolescent Medicine Substance Abuse Program at Sick Kids. Parents participating in Listening for the Door may also find helpful a second group, the ACT Parent Group, a mindfulness-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy program.

For more information, please call Mary Bell at 416-813-8687

3.  ACT Parent Group: Being The Parent You Want To Be When Teens Use Substances

A series of four evening parent sessions
Fall Dates: TBA

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy  is an evidence-based cognitive behavioural approach that has been shown to be effective in managing difficult emotions and thoughts so that we can respond to events in a way that is consistent with our important personal values.  

This series of ACT sessions, open to parents of high school aged teens, helps parents maintain a mindful and compassionate stance toward themselves and their teens in the face of  highly challenging teen behaviour.  It offers mindfulness-based strategies for managing the distress that comes with seeing a teen behave in a way that is risky and self-destructive. It helps parents connect with what’s most important to them, stay grounded at critical moments and take practical steps that get them closer to being the parent they want their teens to have.

For more information, please call Mary Bell at 416-813-8687


Members of our program are involved with local, provincial and national initiatives that involve advocacy for young people and their families who are experiencing difficulties relating to alcohol and other substance use.

Research (past and current)

  • Long-term outcomes of Sick Kids’ Substance Abuse Day Treatment Program.
  • Examining the use of a short screening questionnaire to better understand the issues relating to mental health and substance abuse for patients in the Substance Abuse program.
  • Strengthening families for parents and youth 12 to 16 years of age (a Health Canada Drug Strategy – community initiatives).
  • Screening adolescents with chronic conditions for concurrent mental health and substance use difficulties.

"Just Weed" - An educational resource about the health effects of cannabis 

"Just Weed" was developed in partnership with a group of young people attending the Substance Abuse Program at SickKids, along with two University of Toronto medical students. This resource is intended for use with groups of young people to engage them in discussion, and provide them with information about some of the unique risks associated with cannabis use during adolescence.

In addition to the presentation, we have developed a facilitator guide for those who will be leading group discussions using the content. The guide is intended to provide some ideas about the ways in which you might facilitate or co-facilitate using “Just Weed” with a group of teens or young people. It is recommended that you review "Just Weed" at least once before going through it with the guide. At the end of the guide there is a page where you can make your own notes for each section of the guide.

Open the "Just Weed" Facilitator Guide to view, print or download the guide

Please click the image below to access the entire module. Please ensure that your volume is turned on for the duration of the presentation.

We would love your feedback about how you are using “Just Weed”!  Please contact  Angela Edoo by calling 416-813-7654 extension 203678 or sending an email to: angela.edoo@sickkids.ca

If your group is interested in having a member of our program co-facilitate a session, or are interested in upcoming ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions (where we will provide some training about using the “Just Weed” resource), please email Angela Edoo:  angela.edoo@sickkids.ca

To make a referral or if you have any inquiries regarding the Substance Abuse Program, please contact Sue Duncan, Intake Coordinator at (416) 813-5097