|Drug Education: Programmes and Methodology - An Overview of Opportunities for Drug Prevention (EC - UNESCO, 1995, 41 p.)|
|I. Drug Abuse Prevention Strategies|
It is worth mentioning first of all the distinction made between types or models of prevention, namely, prevention of the supply of drugs (supply reduction) and prevention of the demand for drugs (demand reduction).
Supply reduction can be achieved by national and international legal measures (of the Single Convention), police action and law enforcement. Within demand reduction strategies, drug education can function as an important tool if is applied adequately and appropriately. Both strategies can only be successful and effective if they are combined in a balanced and comprehensive approach.
The combined approaches of supply reduction and demand reduction can be demonstrated in the following model:
MODEL 1: THE EPIDEMIOLOGICAL TRIANGLE
The epidemiological triangle of prevention is a useful framework within which to illustrate relationships and determinants in drug use. The basic question it implies is that of the route through which we should channel our policy or strategy of prevention. Through that leading to the substance? That leading towards the person using drugs? Or, through that passing via the social context or environment?
Several Western, and non-Western, countries strongly emphasize substances; this stems from a concept that the substance is the main cause of the problem. Whilst probably true, the target of this focus, which is to achieve a world without drugs, seems rather unrealistic. Nor does this approach make any allowance for the beneficial effects of some mind-altering drugs for recreational, medical or therapeutical reasons. These, whether licit or illicit, have multiple effects which vary according to the dose, the individual and the context. Furthermore, the personal and social effects of drugs are influenced by the legal status of the drug, its pharmacological characteristics and patterns of use. Therefore, a compromise should probably be sought whereby availability of drugs is restricted to circumstances where the use presents only limited risks.
The second group of preventive efforts focuses on the people using or intending to use a substance, rather than on the substance itself, and is directed at discouraging people Som taking drugs. The most common method used to achieve this aim is communication: information, education and health promotion. As stated, opinions concerning the effectiveness of these measures as a means of prevention still range from optimistic to rather sceptical and are often connected with divergent views on how one should inform and educate and which methods are best suited to drug education. Politicians, police officers, media people and the general public, often claim that the only adequate approach is a warning approach, using highkey scare tactics in the media to discourage young people from experimenting with drugs. In contrast, professionals in drug prevention and health education consider this a counterproductive 4) approach.
4) Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Prevention Report. Home Office, London. 1984
The third group of preventive activities tries to mould the social environment in such a way that drug problems cannot evolve, or will be reduced. In other words, to influence or change the environmental conditions favourable to the onset and development of drug abuse. A look at the social environment of potential drug users brings to light a number of mechanisms that encourage rather than discourage continued use of drugs Firstly, many people in the entourage of an experimental or first-time drug-user panic when first discovering that a son, daughter or pupil, is using drugs. A reaction which runs the risk of leading the situation from bad to worse. Another widespread belief is that it is practically impossible to do anything about a drug problem unless one is an expert in the field. Such notions are detrimental because they block what is left of the normal means of communication between the drug taker and those around him. Bearing this in mind, during the eighties The Netherlands initiated a mass media drug information campaign to educate and inform those within the social environment of drug users parents, teachers, youth workers and health professionals. It was thought that this campaign would have a positive impact and produce more realistic attitudes, and open up and improve communication between educators and youngsters about drug use, and result in a reduction of related taboos 5).
5) Van Berkum,G. W. R. Buisman, G. J. Kok. Mass Communication and Drug Education: Evaluation of the Dutch National Campaign "What everybody ought to know about drugs". In: Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education. 1991. Vol. 36, pp. 65-74