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Please note that the information on this page is based on the EMCDDA Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Most statistical data relate to the year 2009 (or the last year available).


Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
Amphetamines, ecstasy, hallucinogens, GHB and ketamine

Published: 15 November 2011

Interventions in recreational settings

In spite of high levels of drug use in recreational settings, only 13 countries report on the implementation of prevention or harm-reduction interventions in these arenas. The reported interventions continue to focus on information provision and counselling. This focus is also evident in the interventions included in the Healthy Nightlife Toolbox, an EU-funded, Internet-based initiative aimed at helping reduce harm from alcohol and drug use in nightlife settings. The 'Safer Nightlife' project, another EU-funded initiative under the 'Democracy, Cities & Drugs II (2008-2011)' programme, aims to go beyond information provision and improve nightlife prevention programmes and training for professionals.

A recent systematic review of harm-reduction strategies implemented in recreational settings found that they are rarely evaluated and their effectiveness is not always clear (Akbar et al., 2011). The review found that interventions with a focus on training service staff in recreational settings were the most common type of programme available. These programmes typically include topics such as how to recognise signs of intoxication, and when and how to refuse service to customers. In the Austrian 'taktisch klug' (clever tactics) project, organisers of party events are assisted at the preparation stage and party-goers are offered counselling to help them develop a more critical approach to psychoactive substances and risk behaviour. Multi-component environmental models, which are among the programmes with more promising evaluation results, are mainly reported by countries in the north of Europe.

Studies in international nightlife resorts show that these settings may be associated with recruitment, escalation and relapse in relation to drug use, and may have a role in the international spread of drug cultures. Research points to high levels of drug use and initiation into drug use in some resorts. For example, a study of young people (16-35 years) from Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom visiting Ibiza and Majorca, found significant differences in drug use between nationalities and between the two resorts. Levels of drug use were particularly high among Spanish and British visitors to Ibiza, and one in five of the British visitors tried at least one new drug on their holiday there (Bellis et al., 2009).

Bibliographic references

Akbar, T., Baldacchino, A., Cecil, J., Riglietta, M., Sommer, B. and Humphris, G. (2011), 'Poly-substance use and related harms: A systematic review of harm reduction strategies implemented in recreational settings', Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 35, pp. 1 186-202.

Bellis, M.A., Hughes, K., Calafat, A., Juan, M. and Schnitzer, S. (2009), 'Relative contributions of holiday location and nationality to changes in recreational drug taking behaviour: a natural experiment in the Balearic Islands', European Addiction Research 15, pp. 78-86.

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The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Friday, 28 October 2011