The Austrian Addiction Prevention Strategy and all provincial addiction or drug strategies define the main principles of activities aimed at prevention, which underline the need for a holistic and broad approach that integrates both licit and illicit substances. In recent years, prevention has often been combined with intervention to prevent non-substance-related addictive behaviours and violence, and to promote health in general. The main objectives and features of Austria’s prevention policy are to expand prevention measures to broader areas of social life, especially those that are relevant to young people. Prevention activities are mainly organised and implemented at local and regional levels under the guidance of the provincial Addiction Prevention Units and are funded mainly through provincial health promotion funds, as well as from the social care and education budgets, while several other funding sources are available at federal level.
Prevention interventions encompass a wide range of approaches, which are complementary. Environmental and universal strategies target entire populations, selective prevention targets vulnerable groups that may be at greater risk of developing drug use problems and indicated prevention focuses on at-risk individuals.
Environmental prevention measures in Austria are primarily aimed at ensuring safe educational and recreational settings for young people that promote overall wellbeing and health. Schools remain the main venue for universal prevention measures. The implementation of curricular school-based prevention programmes is an important focus, aimed at improvements in the school environment, and strengthening students’ resilience, psychosocial skills and life skills. For older age groups, another relevant objective is the promotion of critical approaches to (licit as well as illicit) psychoactive substances. For example, the programmes ‘Eigenstandig werden’, targeting children aged 6-10, and ‘Plus’, targeting those aged 10-14, are offered in school settings in all provinces. The 2013 evaluation of the four-year ‘Plus’ programme showed a significantly lower increase in licit substance use among children who had completed the programme than in control groups. The participants also exhibited a smaller increase in behavioural problems and better behaviour in school, including learning outcomes in other subjects. The Choice project and Feel- OK.at programme both began at a regional level and their geographical coverage has been expanded in recent years.
Education that uses drama and theatre to convey learning plays a role in prevention in a few provinces, with the objectives of raising awareness about difficult situations and encouraging students to seek help from relevant services. In recent years, targeting of vocational school students and young employees through workplace-based prevention programmes and services has been also enhanced.
Interventions aimed at the parents of preschool children and adolescents primarily concentrate on information-providing events, but an increasing number of these programmes also aim to improve parenting skills and parents’ communication and interaction with their children, particularly by helping parents to deal with child drug use. Media and new technologies are increasingly explored as a means of disseminating among young people information on well-being, health and drug use, for example by using digital story-telling.
Target groups for selective prevention activities are young people experimenting with drugs and children whose parents use drugs or suffer from mental disorders. Activities in recreational settings aim to build a critical approach to psychoactive substances (risk competence) among participants and to explore alternatives to substance use. In this context, youth social work in recreational settings plays an important role. The programmes targeting clubs and party scenes are carried out by non-profit organisations or non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and focus on counselling and information provision. Projects in Vienna and its surrounding area (Check-it!) and Tyrol (Z6 mobile drug services) provide on-site pill testing. New approaches often focus on young people who are taking part in programmes run by public employment services.
Indicated prevention activities in Austria focus on early identification and targets adolescents with at-risk alcohol use. Initiatives have also been implemented to identify young people who are admitted to hospitals and in public employment services and who are have a higher risk of developing addictive behaviour.
Provision of interventions in schools in Austria (expert ratings)
NBYear of data 2015.