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close this bookPrevention of Drug Abuse through Education and Information: An Interdiscplinary Responsibility Within the Context of Human Development (EC - UNESCO, 1994, 26 p.)
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Groups at risk, risk factors, or risk situations?

The designation of certain groups as populations potentially at risk is a thorny issue in preventive education. It is particularly difficult, indeed even dangerous, to set the criteria for such a designation. In other words, designating a given population as being at risk can even increase the risk for this particular group and, consequently, for the population as a whole and can result in blame being placed on scapegoats in different groups where social interaction is complex. And the fight against AIDS has taught us much on this matter.

Another approach is the notion of risk factor. where the traditional model of cause-effect is replaced by taking into account a series of risk factors clearly highlighted by statistical studies. Particular emphasis is placed on the multifaceted nature of the origin of the problem, each risk factor acting in combination with others and being linked to social and economic development indicators. Notwithstanding, individuals identified as being at risk are those who are more likely to manifest a problem in the long term, thus inexorably becoming groups at risk. Even if these particular groups at risk are obtained by cross referencing several factors, we will, in this case, yet again find the same perverse effects of designation.

So drug abuse interpreted as a socio-cultural phenomenon would, it seems to us, merit some careful reflection on terminology. It is preferable to speak of " risk situations " rather than " groups at risk ", for the perverse effects of social overdetermination can give rise to social exclusion.

Many studies have established multiple links between drug addiction, AIDS and social exclusion (9) Without doubt, drug abuse appears as one of the most evident pathologies of social, cultural and economic instability Social exclusion seems to be the major risk in drug abuse as evidenced by the correlation frequently established between poverty, delinquency and drugs.

(9) Lebeau, Bertrand. New York, London, Paris. AIDS, drug addiction, exclusion. Proceedings of the Triville Colloquium, Paris, January 1993

In the field of preventive education, UNESCO directs its particular attention to two categories of the population - young people and children and women - who are particularly vulnerable and less capable of taking part in human development. Both through their number (especially in developing countries) and through their as yet unexploited potential, young people and children and women combine the characteristics to make them a preferential target for preventive education.