Supply reduction or demand reduction?
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
The combined approaches of supply reduction and demand reduction
can be demonstrated in the following model:
MODEL 1: THE EPIDEMIOLOGICAL
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
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.