In this section community is used to mean a group of individuals sharing a common geographical and administrative setting.

Local communities are important to drug responses in providing a way of promoting bottom-up civic engagement and action. In Europe, municipalities and local governments are often the main drivers of strategy development and delivery.

  • Communities may be involved in drug responses in different ways:
  • as a setting for interventions (as opposed to in schools or services, for example);
  • responses may specifically target drug-related harms that communities experience; and
  • through community involvement in interventions addressing drug problems.

Response options

  • The development of community plans to co-ordinate activities according to local needs;
  • community-based outreach provides services for individuals and groups who are not effectively reached by fixed-site services or traditional health promotion channels;
  • diversionary activities for young people in the community seek to reduce vulnerable young people’s involvement in drug use and gangs by providing positive activities that build self-esteem and life skills;
  • programmes to address drug-related harms experienced by the community, for example, clean-up schemes picking up needles and other drug paraphernalia and drug consumption rooms; and
  • community intervention approaches, such as community coalitions and Communities that Care programmes.

The way in which communities are defined varies between countries in Europe, as do approaches to community engagement.

European picture

Prevention approaches that target high-risk neighbourhoods have been implemented in some countries, utilising new methods, including the redesigning of urban spaces. Provision for these types of interventions is reported to be highest in the north and west of Europe. Approaches that have good evidence of effectiveness (normative and environmental) are implemented in just over a quarter of countries.

The Communities that Care (CTC) programme is being used in Germany, the Netherlands, Croatia and the United Kingdom. In addition Belgium is conducting a study on the use of CTC for crime prevention.

Systematic collection of information on community interventions is limited. The variety of different types of interventions, their implementation at a local level, and the fact that they often overlap with broader public health and crime prevention activities makes monitoring these interventions difficult.

Sharing of best practice may occur through networks, which may also have a broader focus, or be specific to a type of intervention. Mapping these networks and obtaining a clearer understanding of the different approaches being taken within Europe to the different types on intervention within communities can be a useful starting point for developing best practice sharing and monitoring of provision.

Summary of the available evidence

No evidence

There is currently no evidence available that meets our inclusion criteria.

Implications for policy and practice


  • Drug policies and interventions addressing nuisance and harms experienced by communities.
  • Community engagement in service provision, such as multi-component drug prevention programmes.
  • Outreach services for people not engaged with services.


  • Community engagement can reduce stigma towards drug users and hence facilitate the provision of services.
  • In some areas the provision of drug consumption rooms or other measures might be considered to reduce nuisance from open drug scenes.


  • Information on the extent and nature of services to tackle the harms experienced by communities and their impact is limited.
  • There is very little evidence for effectiveness of community interventions, therefore research in this area will be important.