The use of illicit drugs remains an important public health issue in Europe in 2022. To foster drugs prevention, we must first define drug education in realistic terms, that is, what do we want our drug education to accomplish? The majority of drug education programs in Europe are aimed at preventing drug use.
But what exactly do we mean by drug prevention?
Drug prevention entails preventing or minimizing the use of drugs, as well as the health and social problems that come with it.
The World Health Organisation stated that:
‘The ultimate goal of prevention in the field of drug related problems is, broadly speaking, to ensure that the members of a given population do not use drugs at ail, i.e. abstentionism and consequently do not put themselves at risk of suffering damage or causing social harm.’
However, given the current drug-oriented society in which our young people live, there are two tiers of preventative actions or tactics with which we should be concerned if we are to completely handle the issue in the most thorough way possible.
- Primary prevention which aims to ensure that a problem does not occur.
- Secondary prevention which aims to reduce the prevalence of the problem or related harm within the society.
It is critical to understand the various parts of prevention in addition to understanding that prevention can occur on two levels.
Supply reduction. By limiting supplies at the place of origin, controlling supplies at the point of entrance, and controlling drug distribution inside the country, supply reduction tries to restrict or reduce the supply and availability of illicit drugs. This component of prevention is definitely a law enforcement concern, with the Police and Customs and Excise being responsible.
Demand reduction. Demand reduction can be defined as efforts aimed at preventing people from trying drugs in the first place, postponing the commencement of experimentation, reducing the number of people who use drugs, and finally stopping drug use completely.
Harm reduction. Harm reduction, often known as harm minimization, is a third part of prevention. Any effort aimed at reducing the harm caused by drug use is referred to as harm reduction.
These components of prevention emphasize the necessity of recognizing that drug prevention is the duty of many different agencies. Youth organizations play an important role in both primary and secondary prevention, as well as demand reduction and, in some situations, harm reduction.
Drug prevention work is the responsibility of many organizations, and it includes a diverse set of activities carried out by and through cooperation between drug agencies, professionals working in education, health, welfare, and enforcement, national and local media, community groups, and the private sector.
A ready supply will always be available when there is a demand for a product. In the last ten years, this has been increasingly apparent in many countries around Europe. We won’t be able to completely regulate the supply of drugs, so we’ll have to work together to assess demand and meet our obligations to the young people we work with in terms of equipping them with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their drug use.
Preventive drugs education approaches
Many ways of drug education have been employed in the past, and many more are now being used in a variety of situations. Individual education programs have been used in the past with the belief that if we could make our young people strong enough, they would not use drugs. Information dissemination, conversation, social and personal growth, and life skills have all been used. The messages have ranged from “Just say no!” to “Reduce drug-related harm”.
According to latest surveys, direct communication of drug information to young people, even if intended to warn them of the dangers, is likely to lead to experimentation. Some types of drug education may actually exacerbate the problem. It was suggested that drug education should not be provided as a stand-alone activity for young people, but rather should be integrated into a larger context, such as health education, and should be carried out by workers who have ongoing contact with young people and can approach their work in a flexible and holistic manner.
The table below critically explores a variety of educational approaches used to address drug concerns to varied degrees. Before determining which technique/approaches best fulfill the needs of the organization, it is critical for organizations to carefully evaluate and explore different approaches, analyzing both the positive and negative aspects of each approach.
|Harm reduction approach||
After looking at the various techniques that can be used to facilitate drug education, we should recognize that drugs education is facilitated by many people in many places, utilizing one or more of these approaches. Because many young people interact outside of the school system, youth and social workers are well-positioned to play an important role in drug education, whether through formal, planned programs with specific groups, in a non-formal way with groups who regularly participate in an activity, leveraging relationships within the group and the activity’s continuity, or in an informal way, through contact outside of regular, planned activity, i.e. through social media.
As a result, it is critical that the drug response be rooted in the community, where there are typically a large number of agencies and organizations to coordinate and assist the effort.