In Denmark, drug prevention is provided within the wider context of comprehensive measures that are implemented by various actors with the aim of enhancing mental health and overall well-being by reducing inequalities among different social groups. In this context, the prevention of illicit substance use is usually addressed together with the prevention of alcohol and tobacco use.
Prevention interventions in Denmark are based on a comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach, with young people being a main target audience for activities. A particular focus in recent years has been prevention activities in high schools and for young people with mental problems.
The Ministry of Health in Denmark coordinates and is responsible for national drug prevention interventions, with the assistance and support of the Danish Health Authority. The municipalities are responsible for organising prevention activities in close cooperation with local stakeholders, while the Danish Health Authority provides support by producing information material, developing prevention projects, and monitoring and providing overall guidance.
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.
The Danish Health Authority has developed a health promotion package focusing on prevention of drug use. It includes evidence-informed recommendations for municipal health promotion interventions, subdivided into sections on structural interventions, health promotion services, information and education, and early detection.
Universal prevention interventions are increasingly implemented in educational institutions and cover both licit and illicit substances. The health promotion package focusing on prevention of drug use also includes national guidelines on the form, content and scope of interventions for school-based prevention, and manual-based prevention programmes are rarely implemented. The municipalities usually recommend several interventions for implementation. Prevention-related subjects are very often taught in grades 6 to 9, and teachers are responsible for the lessons. Municipality alcohol and drug counsellors support this work. Six model communities were involved in testing new ways of developing cooperation between the educational system and alcohol and drug counsellors during 2011-14. In 2015, the Social Reserve Grants Agreement allocated funding to develop cannabis prevention initiatives in vocational schools and technical colleges.
Selective prevention is mostly carried out in recreational settings, with close cooperation between the main players (municipalities, police and restaurant owners). The municipalities’ licensing boards are increasingly using plans for restaurants as a mean of prevention in the nightlife context and are working closely with restaurant owners’ associations.
Numerous municipalities offer courses on prevention to restaurant owners. Although they are focused on alcohol, the evidence from similar projects elsewhere indicates that these activities have also contributed to a reduction in the prevalence of drugs. An evaluation found a high level of interest among all actors in cooperating with and contributing to a safer nightlife environment. The Danish Health Authority implements annually a major prevention campaign, Music Against Drugs, at music festivals and music venues.
Several web-based services are available in Denmark and are intended to reach those who experiment with drugs. For example, an internet-based portal provides information and advice on cannabis and other drugs for young people.
In the area of indicated prevention, Copenhagen has established a prevention and early detection centre, U-Turn, which offers services to drug (mainly cannabis) users who are under the age of 25 years. The U-Turn model has been extended to six other municipalities and targets young people in vocational education settings who have drug use problems that do not require treatment interventions.