The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime have produced a set of standards for drug prevention that look very useful.
In terms of the evidence they’re drawing on the document points out that most of the rigorous research comes from North America, Europe and Oceania, and that there are many gaps that need to be filled. But they rightly say:
What we have is a precious indication of where the right way lies. By using this knowledge and building on it with more evaluation and research, we will be able to provide to policy makers the information they need to develop national prevention systems that are based on scientific evidence and that will support children, youth and adults in different settings to lead positive, healthy and safe lifestyles.
What the UNODC have done is describe the interventions and policies that evidence suggests are most likely to lead to positive outcomes and could therefore be adopted as an effective health-centred drug prevention strategy.
They go on to look at interventions both by the age group that is targeted, the setting and by whether the intervention is delivered at the universal, selective or indicated level. They produce a useful matrix (which I’ve reproduced below) with the stars showing the level of evidence for each approach, where * means limited evidence and ***** means there is excellent evidence for efficacy.
They go on to describe each strategy trying to cover the following details.
- A brief description;
- The available evidence;
- The characteristics that appear to be linked to positive, no or negative outcomes; and
- Where available further guidance or tools.
They also highlight a number of strategies that need further research:
- Sports and other leisure time activities
- Preventing the non-medical use of prescription drugs
- Interventions and policies targeting children and youth particularly at risk
- Prevention of the use of new psychoactive substances not controlled under
They finally go on to look at the policy framework that is likely to lead to better prevention efforts. Which they detail as:
- A supportive policy and legal framework;
- Scientific evidence and research;
- Coordination of multiple sectors and levels (national, sub-national and municipal/ local) involved;
- Training of policy makers and practitioners; and
- Commitment to provide adequate resources and to sustain the system in the long term.
All in all this looks like a useful and powerful tool for embedding prevention into national drug strategies.