Cover Image
close this bookDrug Education: Programmes and Methodology - An Overview of Opportunities for Drug Prevention (EC - UNESCO, 1995, 41 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
Open this folder and view contentsI. Drug Abuse Prevention Strategies
Open this folder and view contentsII. The planning process of drug education
Open this folder and view contentsIII. Methods and techniques of drug education
Open this folder and view contentsIV. Drug Prevention in some European Countries: A Review of Policies and Programmes
Open this folder and view contentsV. Effectiveness of Drug Education
View the documentVI. Conclusion and suggestions for Model Programmes of Drug Education


For more than thirty years the goal of people in the field of drug prevention has been to develop educational programmes, and educators, scientists and prevention specialists have been working to design comprehensive and effective programmes to prevent or reduce drug abuse. It was long believed that a supply reduction approach promised the best results, and several international conventions were drawn up in an attempt to slow down production and curb the supply of illicit drugs. At national levels, this predominantly judicial approach has sometimes caused friction with health policies, especially as regards contacting and helping drug users. In recent years, allowance has gradually been made for both the judicial-criminological and the health oriented standpoints. Generally speaking, however, this has not produced a comprehensive, unequivocal drug policy, both politically and socially acceptable at the international level.

As of the seventies, professional thinking turned towards prevention which, (1) at that time was centered exclusively on concepts of primary prevention to discourage the initiation of non-drug users, especially children and adolescents. Primary prevention had for a long time been synonymous with public education on drugs, inspired by concepts of health education, and later, of health promotion. Professional drug education as an instrument of drug policy has always encountered difficulties in that too much was expected of it, and it had to contend with sensational, high profile, "common sense" approaches (media, public opinion, etc.)

1) Buisman, W. R. Demand Reduction Strategies. WHO, Copenhagen. 1990

One major problem was that evaluation studies repeatedly showed that the effects of educational programmes are frequently weak, often with a mixture of positive (intended) and Negative (undesired) results (2).

2) Goos, C. J. M. Drug Education, is it any good? In: Proceedings 13th ICAA Institute on the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependence, Oslo. 1983

If we admit that the impact of education is still limited today, this impact could, we believe, be much greater if some of the following observations - based on a long experience with drug education practice - were taken into consideration:

- information does not unconditionally lead to changes in attitude and in behaviour;

- young people who are the main target group of drug prevention need guidance in learning to solve problems of adolescence much more than they need drug information and drug education (3);

- drug education and information might be of more use to parents, educators, teachers and other key-persons in contact with young people, than for the adolescents themselves;

- drug use prevention will only be credible to young people if placed in the broader context of licit substances, such as alcohol, tobacco and psychopharmaceuticals.

3) De Haes, W. F. M. Looking for Effective Drug Education Programmes. In: Health Education Research, 1987 Vol.2. No. 4.pp.433-438

Preventive education against drug abuse is vital in shaping and developing the personality of young people because it seeks to inspire life goals, a challenge which endows it with much broader implications than the prevention of health problems.

UNESCO is the United Nations agency with a specific mandate in education and is, thus, the main partner of the international community in the domain of education. Under the coordination of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), the Secretariat participates in global efforts to reduce the demand of drugs through its Preventive Education Programme.

In Chapter I a model of drug abuse prevention is described, which poses the basic question of what kind of preventive efforts should be undertaken: efforts to persuade young people not to take drugs, efforts to withdraw drugs from the community, or efforts linked to the social environment of potential drug users, aimed at discouraging drug-taking by, for example, offering positive and healthy alternatives?

Chapter II describes the basic planning steps in the development and implementation of drug prevention programmes and contains an overview of different target groups and formal settings for drug abuse prevention. Methods and techniques of drug education, why, when and how to apply them, are discussed and illustrated.

Chapter III looks at methods and techniques of drug education; Chapter IV provides examples of successful drug education policies and programmes in four European countries; Chapter V deals with evaluation of drug education programmes, and Chapter VI contains conclusions and suggestions for model drug education programmes.

For the purposes of this publication, the word "drug" (unless otherwise specified) is used to refer to all psychoactive substances, that is, "any substance that, when taken into a living organism, may modify its perception, mood, cognition behaviour or motor function".

"Abuse" is defined, in the first place, as harmful to the human consciousness, and in the second, as harmful to the human body.

A distinction is made between three levels of prevention:

Primary Prevention, aimed at preventing the occurence of a disorder, process or problem.

Secondary Prevention, aimed at recognising a disorder, process or problem and then suppresing it or modifying it in a positive, way and as quickly as possible.

Tertiary Prevention, aimed at delaying or preventing the further development of a disorder, process or problem and its after effects, even while the situation that gave rise to it is still present.