Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Engaging Clients Who Use Substances

Project / Initiative: 
Mental Health & Addiction Initiative
Type of Guideline: 
Publication date: 
About this Guideline:

This guideline provides evidence-based recommendations for nurses and other members of the interprofessional team across all care settings who are assessing and providing interventions to individuals who use substances and may be at risk for or experiencing a substance use disorder.

The purpose of this Guideline is to provide nurses and the interprofessional team across all care settings with evidence-based recommendations related to assessment and interventions for individuals aged 11 years and older who use substances and may be at risk for or experiencing a substance use disorder.

This Guideline provides best practice recommendations in three main areas:

  • Practice recommendations are directed primarily to nurses and other health-care providers in the interprofessional team who provide care for youth and adults across all practice settings.
  • Education recommendations are directed to those responsible for nursing and staff education, such as educators, quality improvement teams, managers, administrators, and academic institutions.
  • System, organization, and policy recommendations apply to a variety of audiences, depending on the recommendation. Audiences include managers, administrators, policy-makers, nursing regulatory bodies, and government bodies.

For optimal effectiveness, recommendations in these three areas should be implemented together.

The scope of this Guideline includes effective assessment and management interventions that can be utilized with individuals aged 11 and older who use substances and may be at risk for or are experiencing a substance use disorder. Also included are education, organization, and policy recommendations for improving access to care for these individuals.

Because assessment tools and management interventions for children under 11 years of age can differ significantly from those used with adolescents, adults, and older adults, the scope of this Guideline excludes children under 11 years of age. A comprehensive review of non-substance use disorders within the broader category of addictions (e.g., gambling, shopping, eating disorders, internet/technology, sex, etc.) is also outside the scope of this Guideline, as assessment and management interventions can vary according to each particular disorder.

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