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