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Selective prevention

Settings for selective prevention and available information

Selective prevention strategies target subsets of the total population that are deemed to be at risk for substance abuse by virtue of their membership to a particular population segment, for example young offenders, school drop-outs, or students who are failing academically. Risk groups may be identified on the basis of social, demographic or environmental risk factors known to be associated with substance abuse, and targeted subgroups may be defined by age, gender, family history, place of residence such as deprived neighbourhoods or those with high drug-use or trafficking. More information and resources on risk factors and vulnerable groups in PERK.

Information on selective prevention is available from most Member States through qualitative expert (panel) ratings on the provision of interventions and on their importance in the respective drug policies.


Selective prevention interventions in school are mainly focused on young people at risk of being excluded from school and therefore of not achieving their first steps of socialisation. Information on the availability of interventions targetting pupils with social or academic problems and early school leavers can be found in the Prevention profiles.


In selective prevention, good coordination of local services has an important role to play as vulnerable young people fall under the shared responsibity of several policies: social, justice, health, education.

Information on the availability of interventions targetting young offenders, youth in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods, ethnic groups and immigrants can be found in the Prevention profiles.


Selective family-based prevention focuses on families at risk, especially because these families are not reached by traditional prevention approaches like parents' evenings or family components in school-based prevention.

Several Member States have acknowledged that it can also be truly difficult for institutions to actively contact problem families. In several member states, selective prevention programmes targeted to families at risk are now being implemented. These programmes employ several techniques to be attractive for at-risk families (food, financial incentives, babysitting) mostly based on C. Kumpfer's Strengthening Families Programme (SFP).

Information on the availability of interventions targetting family conflict and neglect, substance abuse in family, socially disadvantaged parents (e.g. unemployed), families with mental health problems, ethnic families in marginalisation and criminal justice problems in family can be found in the Prevention profiles.

See also the UNODC's Guide to implementing family skills training programmes for drug abuse prevention (PDF, external site).

Prevention in recreational settings

This specific setting for selective prevention has already been explored and described in a policy briefing, Drugs in focus Issue n° 6. A (1999) mapping exercise on demand reduction activities to new synthetic drugs. In order to achieve a clearer focus for information gathering, this area has been defined in recent EMCDDA expert panels as “Activities developed to influence people, environment and drug use in settings such as:

  • Clubs/discotheques/bars/parties;
  • Outdoor events (e.g. festivals)
  • and temporary venues.

Information on the availability of interventions targetting  targetting party/festival-goers can be found in the Prevention profiles.

For an overview on the scope of interventions, an EDDRA analysis on prevention projects in party settings is available. The report describes scope, contents and evaluation level of interventions in recreational settings that were available in EDDRA by July 2002.

A survey in preparation of a European expert meeting in September 2002 in Lisbon allowed for compiling professionals' views and opinions about quality criteria for interventions in recreational settings and the possibilities of evaluating them. The two reports below are outputs of this compilation and contain also information about experiences with safe clubbing guidelines and other relevant aspects of prevention in party settings.

Pill-testing interventions

In some EU Member States, a particular prevention measure is used in recreational settings: to analyse the contents of pills that allegedly contain ecstasy in order to inform and get into contact with the hard-to-reach risk group of party drug users. More information about on-site pill testing interventions.

Related documents
Reports and Resources
EMCDDA, 2003-2004
Quality models and approaches for prevention in recreational settings
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Evaluation indicators for prevention in recreational settings
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State of selective prevention in the European Union - report
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Guia de intervención menores y consumo de drogas (Manual) - ADES
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About the EMCDDA

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, 24 February 2012