The National Strategy and Action Plan on Drugs and Addictions 2015-19 identifies prevention as a main intervention area and aims to reduce initiation of drug use, delay the onset of drug use and encourage protective actions and healthy lifestyles among the general population and at-risk groups. The planning and implementation of drug prevention is under the authority of several governmental actors and involves collaboration between the Ministry of Health, the National Drug Coordination Office, the Division of Preventive Medicine of the Directorate of Health and the National Drug Addiction Prevention Centre (CePT).
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.
Universal prevention is mainly implemented in schools, although drug-related information and prevention modules are not mandatory in school curricula. School-based programmes are usually implemented in cooperation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and teachers are offered specific training. Annual ‘adventure weeks’ aim to give young people the opportunity to experience group dynamics, conflict management, risk assessment and a feeling of solidarity within a group of socially and culturally diverse people. Recent developments include the launch of the CePT Toolbox to assist with the implementation of school-based prevention activities, and the publication of recommendations for educational professionals on how to tackle cannabis in the school environment. Training modules on how to communicate with young people about psychoactive substances in non-formal environments have been developed for professionals working with young people. Trained police staff members periodically visit schools to inform students on drugs and their risks, reaching around 6 000 students every year. Some manual-based school prevention programmes are now implemented in schools.
Selective prevention focuses on crisis interventions in schools and avoiding social exclusion. Activities are also carried out in recreational settings and with high-risk groups, such as at-risk families, polydrug users and those who show excessive use of alcohol. Choice is an early intervention programme for juvenile first-time offenders. The NGO 4Motion asbl organises the PIPAPO project, which operates information points that provide information, earplugs, condoms, soap, breath testing and drinking water in recreational settings, and DrUg CheCKing (DUCK) checks substances used in these settings. More recently, risks and harms related to synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances have been targeted by specific prevention programmes. The Youth and Drug Help Foundation offers psychosocial help to drug-dependent parents and their children, and provides intervention to strengthen the parenting skills of drug-using mothers.
With regard to indicated prevention, early detection is a priority for children exhibiting high-risk behaviour in school settings and at home; further interventions are provided by psychiatric care services.