Drug use prevention in Finland is part of the wider concept of the promotion of well-being and health, and illicit drugs are addressed together with licit substance use and other dependencies. Prevention is the responsibility of both central and local governments under the umbrella of the National Prevention Programme and is coordinated by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, with local governments focusing on practical measures and the coordination of activities. Each municipality is required to name a party responsible for coordinating local preventive actions. The majority of municipalities have a prevention coordinator, while cross-sectoral working groups coordinate and supervise the implementation of actions.
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 Finland, environmental prevention encompasses activities to limit access to alcohol and tobacco for underage people. A new act on organising alcohol, tobacco, drugs and gambling prevention came into force at the end of 2015.
A number of interventions aim to create safe and risk-reducing environments in school settings, while universal prevention activities aimed at substance use prevention are a part of compulsory health education. In addition, counselling and support for substance-related problems are offered by health and social services in schools. All schools have a substance use prevention strategy as part of their student welfare plan, comprising guidelines for substance use prevention and substance-related problems, together with information on cooperation and networking with local stakeholders. Individual schools can decide independently about specific school-based drug prevention activities, but these activities are not systematically reported. The most popular approaches are knowledge transfer, life skills education, affective education and alternatives to substance use.
Substance use prevention is also embedded in general prevention programmes for young people, but manual-based prevention programmes in schools are rarely implemented, since the whole system is focused on offering a protective school environment. Youth work is considered an important part of substance use prevention among young people, and Preventiimi is a focal point for training in preventive programmes in Finland.
Selective and indicated prevention activities mainly target school dropouts or young drug users and are implemented largely through health counselling centres, outreach youth work teams run by non-governmental organisations, sheltered youth homes, rehabilitation units and workshops for young people. The family support centre Free from Drugs, which is a volunteer organisation, provides family-oriented substance use prevention services. In Finland, as in some other European countries, drug testing has been introduced in workplace settings to facilitate early interventions and referral to support services for those who may need it. A low-threshold web service, Addiction, is an additional tool for providing information and self-help to high-risk populations.