The National Strategy on Combating Drug Abuse for 2012-17 emphasises the implementation of effective and evidence-based prevention programmes. In addition, the National Addiction Prevention Programme for Children and Youth in the Educational Settings and the Social Welfare System for 2015-17 outlines the following preventive aspects: (i) the main target audiences (pre-school children and pupils, university students, and children and young people in social care institutions); (ii) the evaluation criteria for prevention programmes for all addictive behaviours; and (iii) the standards for drug use prevention activities.
Prevention programmes in the Republic of Croatia are implemented primarily at a local community level in the 21 counties, as multidisciplinary activities with the participation of different sectors, such as education, health, social care, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media. The Office for Combating Drug Abuse is the national coordinating body in the field of prevention, while the county committees ensure coordination at a local level. Prevention activities are mainly funded by the state budget and by revenues collected from gambling; the European Drug Prevention Quality Standard guidelines are increasingly used to assess the proposed projects. Interventions are carried out under the national strategy, the National Addiction Prevention Programme for Children and Youth in Educational Settings and the Social Welfare System, and the Decision on Implementing, Monitoring and Evaluating the Health Education Curriculum in Elementary and High Schools.
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 substance use problems and indicated prevention focuses on at-risk individuals.
In the field of environmental prevention, the main focus is on the control and reduction of access to alcohol and tobacco for children and young people.
Universal drug prevention is organised and implemented mainly within the education system under the oversight of the Ministry of Science and Education and follows a module-based health education curriculum. School-based prevention is primarily aimed at motivating young people to adopt healthy lifestyles, developing their self-esteem and social skills, offering alternative activities for leisure time and as a result reducing young people’s interest in experimenting with psychoactive substances.
Family-oriented prevention activities are implemented by local organisations and focus on strengthening parenting skills. At a community level, youth clubs and NGOs offer numerous educational activities during young people’s leisure time, using peer education methods or proposing alternative, positive behavioural models for leisure activities. There has recently been a shift in universal prevention strategies from primarily information provision and mass media campaigns towards more skills-based prevention activities. In recent years, well-respected international programmes such as Unplugged, the Life-Skills Training Programme, Communities that Care and Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies have been implemented in Croatia. Particular attention is given to the evaluation of these programmes.
Selective prevention is implemented through cooperation between NGOs, public health centres and social welfare centres. Activities in this area focus on vulnerable families, such as those with parents in prison or parents with drug use problems, and minority communities (such as the Roma community). Within the educational context, they are aimed at children who have special needs, are in children’s homes, are from high-risk families or have learning problems. These programmes mainly reinforce the need for a healthy lifestyle and emphasise risk reduction, promoting the role of parenting and providing alternative leisure activities for young people at high risk of substance use. Indicated prevention targets young people who are experimenting with drugs and who are in contact with social welfare centres or public health institutions.