Establishing a life-long approach to drug prevention covering early years, family support, drug education and targeted specialist support is one of the main aims of the UK drug strategy. The role of prevention initiatives is also stressed in each of the drug strategies of the devolved administrations. Drug strategies favour a broad approach to prevention that does not target drugs specifically, but, instead, aims to strengthen general resilience factors that are associated with reducing the desire to explore risky behaviours, such as drug use.
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.
Drug prevention is part of the national curriculum throughout most of the United Kingdom, with a focus on building resilience in young people, and most schools have a drug education policy and guidelines on dealing with drug incidents.
In England, universal drug prevention is a statutory part of the science curriculum for schools and can be expanded through the non-statutory personal, social and health education (PSHE) programme. To improve the implementation of this programme, the Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS) has introduced quality standards for schools that cover the delivery of effective alcohol and drug education in the classroom. In Scotland, prevention is part of broader life learning for children and young people through the Curriculum for Excellence, which is integrated with traditional education for 3- to 18-year-olds. A diversionary and educational initiative delivered by Police Scotland, Choices for Life, aims to give young people credible information on drugs and also allows teachers and other educators to exchange prevention practices. For example, specific activities addressing NPS were introduced in 2014. In Wales, drug prevention initiatives are included as part of the All Wales School Liaison Core Programme, which targets pupils aged 5-16, and, in Northern Ireland, the school curriculum puts a specific focus on the development of relevant life skills, with the aim of keeping children safe and healthy. Several well-researched universal prevention programmes, such as the Good Behaviour Game and Unplugged programmes, have been piloted in the UK.
Rise Above, which is an online resource for young people, was launched in 2014 by Public Health England (PHE). Targeting 11- to 16-year-olds, Rise Above aims to build young people’s skills by encouraging them to engage with a range of situational resources, rather than simply providing them with information.
The Healthy Child Programme is the UK Government’s early intervention and prevention programme and targets children from birth to 19 years. A new series of guides has been published to assist local authorities in commissioning and delivering services that provide an integrated approach to public health for children.
The UK Government has prioritised the early identification of at-risk children and families and the provision of suitable interventions through the Troubled Families programme, which aims to provide a focused approach to the needs of the family as a whole and a tailored support service. Interventions within the programme include parenting skills; drugs education for children; family support to help them stay together; addressing other problems; support for kinship carers; and, in some cases, intensive interventions. Another important element of selective and indicated prevention activities in the UK is the focus on vulnerable young people, such as young offenders, looked- after children, young homeless people, ethnic and sexual minorities, young people in deprived neighbourhoods and young people from families with parents that have substance use problems, through special programmes at a community level. Integrated Family Support Services, which are available across most of Wales, provide support for families with parental substance misuse issues.
Communication programmes, such as Talk to Frank in England, Know the Score in Scotland and DAN 24/7 in Wales, provide information and advice to young people and their families.
Provision of interventions in schools in the United Kingdom (expert ratings)
NBYear of data 2016.