The number of schools recruited in the 2019/2020 CPADS represent 21% of all colleges and universities in Canada (total=196). The overall survey sample includes representation from 4 regions in Canada, including: the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), Ontario, Quebec; and the Atlantic (Newfoundland, New Brunswick, PEI, and Nova Scotia). No schools were included from British Columbia and the Northern Territories (Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon) and as such all results are referred to as “Pan-Canadian” rather than “national”. While the results are not nationally representative, the findings do provide important insight into substance use and harms experienced among the survey respondents.
In the data tables, results are reported as a percentage and are accompanied by their associated 95% confidence interval.
Estimates with moderate sampling variability are indicated throughout the text with the symbol ‘*’, and should be interpreted with caution.
Some data are not reportable due to low numbers. Data are only reportable if the number of observations in a cell was >=30 and the coefficient of variation for the estimate was < 33.3%. Unreportable estimates are suppressed to ensure that participants cannot be identified. When numbers are not reported, this is indicated with the ‘#’ symbol in the data tables.
Some numbers are rounded; therefore, totals may not add up to 100%.
All reported differences are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. Differences are indicated in the footnotes indicating the columns that are different.
Weights were applied to ensure that the data are representative of the student population by sex and age.
Survey responses are reported by sex based on the respondents’ biological sex assigned at birth. This measure was chosen to align with recommendations in Canada’s LRDGi. The LRDG recommends safe drinking amounts based on sex, given the important biological differences in how alcohol is metabolised between males and females and the increased health risks to females who consume alcohol. Sex at birth may not reflect the respondent’s current gender identity, which is asked in question “demq01”.
Questions about cannabis did not differentiate between medical and non-medical use as it was anticipated that the proportion of young adults who use cannabis exclusively for medical purposes would be small and would not greatly impact estimatesii.
Some of the key definitions used in these survey results include:
Heavy drinking: defined as having 4 or more drinks for females and 5 or more drinks for males on one occasion in the past 30 days. ‘On one occasion’ means consuming drinks consecutively or within a couple of hours of each other.
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: The CPADS calculates the proportion of respondents who exceed the LRDG based on alcohol consumption in the 7 days prior to the survey. People who drink within this guideline must consume "no more than 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days and 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days. It is recommended to plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habiti.
ASSIST: The Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) was developed for the World Health Organization (WHO) by an international group of researchers specialised in problematic substance use to detect and manage substance use and related problems in primary and general medical care settings. The ASSIST module is used to screen respondents of the CPADS for problematic cannabis use.
Respondents are categorised based on their consumption as follows:
Low risk of developing health and other problems (score of 0-3)
Moderate risk of developing health and other problems (score of 4-26)
High risk of developing health and other problems and likely to be dependent (score of 27+)
Problematic psychoactive pharmaceutical use is defined as using more (quantity), using more often (frequency) or using substances in a way other than prescribed (e.g., to get high).
The CPADS results are affected by limitations in the survey design, which include:
Results are based on self-reported data which are subject to recall bias, data entry errors and prone to under or over reporting. Respondents may forget actual use with increasing consumption as heavier drinkers have been found to have higher rates of non-participation in surveysiii. In addition, desirability bias (where respondents may have answered in a way that they think is socially acceptable) and lack of knowledge of standard serving sizes may have contributed to reporting errorsiv.
Lastly, the survey topic is indicated in the title of this project which could lead to a skewed sample of respondents that are by nature more interested and knowledgeable on the topic of substance use. This could lead to over or under estimation of prevalence.