In Cyprus, the National Strategy on Illicit Substances Dependence and the Harmful Use of Alcohol for 2013-20 endorses prevention as one of its pillars. There are three main prevention priorities included in the strategy’s Action Plan for 2017-20: (i) promote healthy lifestyles among children and young people belonging to vulnerable groups; (ii) create a dissuasive environment towards substance use; and (iii) implement early intervention programmes. These priorities seek to support vulnerable groups in adopting a healthy lifestyle and enhancing their access to supportive services, implement early interventions for specific groups at risk and promote environmental actions to prevent and/or delay addictions in the family, army and school environments, on the internet and in the community.
The Cyprus National Addictions Authority (NAAC) is responsible for monitoring the implementation of prevention and intervention programmes through its accreditation and evaluation procedures, as well as some funding procedures.
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 Cyprus, significant emphasis is placed on environmental actions to prevent and/or delay addictions in the family, army and school environments. Related actions include a national science-based parenting skills programme; the integration of European Drug Prevention Quality Standards in preventive programmes; science-based prevention interventions or programmes in early childhood; legislation for a total ban on smoking in schools; and web-based prevention programmes.
Universal prevention is the most common mode of prevention implemented in communities, families and school settings, targeting mainly secondary school students. Prevention activities in schools are implemented as part of the health promotion education programme. These programmes focus on raising awareness and providing information about drugs, while some of them address the development of personal and social skills. In 2017, 11 universal prevention programmes were accredited, and the majority of these were implemented at the national level. The main axes of the programmes were information dissemination on illegal and legal substances (such as alcohol and tobacco), strengthening of self-development skills, strengthening of self-esteem, enhancement of resilience factors, attitude change, improvement of communication, and training of teachers and parents.
In recent years, special attention has been paid to accelerating the implementation of targeted selective and indicated prevention activities. Priority is given to high-risk groups, including early school leavers and students/soldiers who use licit and illicit substances. Efforts are made to implement these programmes in high-risk areas, to identify those who need support and refer them to appropriate services.
Indicated prevention is informed by the Protocol of Cooperation for the Referral of Young Offenders to Treatment Centres, which was established by the Cyprus Police through the Drug Law Enforcement Unit, the Sovereign Base Areas Police and the Ministry of Health. The protocol promotes policies that facilitate alternatives to prosecution/imprisonment for young drug offenders (arrested for the first time), giving them the opportunity of an early intervention or a more intensive treatment programme, according to their needs.