#WorldDrugDay: Growing support in Europe for evidence-based prevention programmes, but more training needed

People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention’, is the theme of the 2023 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (#WorldDrugDay). The EMCDDA will mark this occasion with an event on its premises for the Lisbon diplomatic community and its partners from the Portuguese authorities.

The event comes in the month when the EMCDDA released its annual overview of the drug situation in the form of the European Drug Report 2023: Trends and Developments. The report describes growing support in Europe for implementing evidence-based substance use prevention programmes, a goal supported through prevention programme registries, training initiatives and quality standards.

The EMCDDA’s European Prevention Curriculum (EUPC), designed to professionalise the prevention workforce, is one initiative helping to improve the overall effectiveness of prevention efforts. More than 25 EU Member States and neighbouring countries now have national EUPC trainers. Prevention efforts are also supported by Xchange, a European online registry of evaluated prevention interventions.

Launching the report on 16 June, EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel spoke of the ‘incredible progress’ achieved in building a better knowledge base for evidence-based prevention programmes, through the European Prevention Curriculum. He added: ‘Now the challenge is to use it to train more professionals, as, on average, only 10-15 % of professionals working in the area of prevention in Europe have received evidence-based training or education’ (see speech transcript).

The European Drug Report 2023 states that, thanks to research and investment in service development, we now have a better understanding of what interventions are likely to be effective in the areas of drug prevention, treatment, harm reduction and support to recovery. There is also a greater recognition of the need for more integrated and comprehensive responses, due to the interrelated nature of problems associated with drug use and other complex social policy issues.

In this context, the report underlines the need for synergies with policy and practice in other important areas (e.g. housing support, mental health provision, youth and elderly services) and for greater investment in drug-specific responses and integrated models of care, due to mixed availability.

Speaking on the growing diversity in drug supply and use in Europe, Alexis Goosdeel said: ‘We need to invest more in services, which are now called upon to meet more diverse and complex needs. We also need to adapt our services which are based on the drugs problem 30 years ago, which centred around injecting heroin use. Much has changed since then’.

The Director added: ‘When we speak about prevention, but especially about treatment and harm reduction, we need to do more, better and differently for women and other vulnerable groups’.