How can we prevent problematic substance use by youth?

Lanark County is the first community in Canada to embrace a proven, evidenced-based method for preventing problematic substance use by youth.  This effort is being led by the volunteer-based Planet Youth Lanark County  (PYLC) steering committee.  Evidence is gathered from surveys of Lanark County grade 10 students.  The initial plan was for the first survey in March 2020 but Covid-19 had other ideas.  In February 2022, thanks to great collaboration with our school boards, the surveys were conducted.  Each municipality in Lanark County (including Smiths Falls) now has access to its own report at  PYLC will be working hard to share these reports with stakeholders across Lanark County this fall.  PYLC is offering to collaborate with all stakeholders in addressing risk factors that are known to encourage youth towards problematic use.  More importantly, through PYLC, stakeholders can access expert guidance on  strengthening protective factors. This expertise has been developed over 20+ years of successful community-based prevention in hundreds of communities around the world.

Lanark County is the first, but not the only, Canadian community adopting this proven community-based prevention approach.  The province of New Brunswick and the city of Calgary are officially “signed up” and several other Ontario communities (including in Eastern Ontario) are in early planning.  This is because problematic substance use is impacting every community in every country.  Most people reading this note have seen the negative impacts in their family, their friends and/or their neighbourhood.

Problematic substance use is a wicked problem. This is especially true in British Columbia.  In 2021, more than 6 lives per day were lost due to overdose deaths in BC.  A BC legislative committee looking for solutions asked Planet Youth Lanark County to share our experience in community prevention.  The 30-minute presentation by Pall Rikhardsson (an expert in prevention), Dr. Paula Stewart (Medical Officer of Health) and David Somppi (PYLC Chair) was followed by a 60 minutes question period.  The presentations can be viewed at  Our message was/is, prevention will not “fix” the immediate crisis but it offers hope for the future.

Everyone wants their children and grandchildren to grow up in a community that promotes healthy lifestyles.  This is exactly the goal of community-based prevention.  I invite you to join with others in your community as we work together to achieve this goal.

For more information please email to

Presentation, Planet Youth Lanark County


Presentation, Dr. Pall Rikhardsson



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