Prevention Update

A unique update on what is happening in the world of drug abuse prevention.

Welcome to Prevention Update, the Prevention Hub's comment on latest news, research, statistics, policy updates, information on resources and events. It is relevant in particular to practitioners and policy makers but equally valuable and interesting to all who form the drug prevention community.

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New UNESCO, WHO, UNODC publication launched: Good Policy and Practice in Health Education: Education sector responses to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs

Substance use, including use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, is associated with a wide range of negative impacts on young people’s mental and physical health as well as on their well-being over the short and long term. Substance use has also proven to be linked with a number of negative education-related consequences, including poor school engagement and performance, and school dropout. The education sector has a responsibility to protect children and young people from substance use. Prevention should start early, cover all age groups, and especially target critical transition periods in the development of children and young people.

A comprehensive education sector response to substance use comprises of: Education sector policy and strategy frameworks; National and sub-national curricula; Training and support for educational personnel; Evidence-based responses at school level; Appropriate school health services; Effective management of the education sector response.

However, the quality of existing responses is often poor. The education sector in many countries is not meaningfully involved in the national response to substance use, or approaches are not based on scientific evidence, thus wasting previous resources. In some cases, these approaches even have unintended consequences that may end up harming young people. Some countries have pockets of evidence-based responses, which unfortunately are not sustained or scaled up nationwide.

In 2017, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a booklet on Education sector responses to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, in the UNESCO series Good Policy and Practice in Health Education.

Good Policy and Practice in Health Education: Education sector responses to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

This joint publication provides the context, rationale and a comprehensive conceptual framework for improved education sector responses to substance use. It presents evidence-based and promising policies and practice, including practical examples from different regions that have been shown to be effective by scientific research. It also suggests issues to consider in scaling up and sustaining effective education sector responses to substance use.

Developed within the framework set by the International Standards on Drug Use Prevention (UNODC, 2013) and Health for the World’s Adolescents (WHO, 2014), it is the result of an international consultation process involving extensive global, regional and country-based literature reviews and an international expert meeting.

World No Tobacco Day

The Theme of World No Tobacco day, 31 May, is "Tobacco - a threat for development". It proposes measures that the public and governments should take to promote health and development by confronting the global tobacco crisis.

To take part and to find out the video, poster, and social media materials, go to the campaign site at

Tobacco threatens us all. Say no to tobacco. Protect health, reduce poverty and promote development. #NoTobacco

Webinar on prevention in low resource settings

UNODC is co-operating with the FRESH - partners to produce a webinar focusing on how could and should substance use prevention look like in the low resource settings, in a situation where majority of the prevention research still comes from high income settings. It will be a part of the webinar series initiated by Save the Children, and build also on the UNODC guide launched recently titled Prevention Of Drug Use And Treatment Of Drug Use Disorders In Rural Settings.

More information on this webinar is coming soon to the schools and Health website at!

Tobacco control is a major public health success story

The worldwide tobacco control success is manifested by the recent studies published in the Lancet Public Health, showing global smoking rates have decreased, especially after the adoption of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC). This first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO obligates the 180 countries committed themselves to implementing strong evidence-based policies, including five key measures: high tobacco taxes, smoke-free public spaces, warning labels, comprehensive advertising bans, and support for stop smoking services.

The study analysed the smoking prevalence and attributable disease burden in 195 countries between 1990 and 2015. Even if the progress has overall been so strong that the global smoking prevalence has drastically dropped, representing 28.4% reductions for men and 34.4% for women respectively, since 1990, but yet greater progress was called for by the treaty. Smoking is still one of the five leading risk factors globally increasing the disease burden, and the control measures appear to be unevenly enforced across different regions. According to the study, in 2015, smoking attributed to 11.5% of global deaths worldwide in 2015. Over half of it (52.2%) of it took place in only four countries (China, India, the USA and Russia). Also, more countries were observed making progress from 1990 to 2005, than in between 2005 and 2015. The authors emphasize that despite progress shown in some settings, more efforts are needed to renew and implement tobacco control evenly across the regions and countries.

The importance to continue to invest to tobacco demand reduction is also emphasized by another study showing a global increase in implementation of all key demand-reduction measures, and concluding that they are significantly associated with lower smoking prevalence, with anticipated future reductions in tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. Strong implementation of the tobacco control measures is thus called for to bring another progress for another decade in future. For more information, please see the full text of the both studies; study for smoking prevalence and disease burden and study for association between tobacco control and smoking prevalence

Listen FIRST! Global UNODC advocacy campaign to highlight that listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe

'Listen First' is an initiative to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and is thus an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities. It was launched in 2016 in the context of UNGASS to create more visibility and support for prevention, and has been disseminated with support of 50+ governments and international organisations reaching over 1,6 million individuals so far.

The campaign targets parents, teachers, policy makers, prevention workers and health workers and highlights how to prevent risky behaviours and drug use, and how these different professional groups can support and benefit from prevention. It is based on research that shows that through this kind of science-based approach, on average, 30 times the amount of funds invested in drug prevention can be saved in future health and social care costs.

The campaign website is at Visit the page to find factsheet for each of the targeted professional groups, and a video to summarize the campaign message.

Disseminate the word on the value of prevention and remember to #ListenFirst!

Call for proposals for the 2017 DAPC Grants launched in the context of the UNODC Youth Initiative

The United Nations Offices on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched a call of proposals to support non-profit organisations in low- and middle- income countries working for preventing substance use among or with the youth to implement small prevention projects. The size of grants will be between 10,000 and 17,000 USD. These grants are made possible by the generous contribution from the Drug Abuse Prevention Centre (DAPC) of Japan.

The deadline for submitting proposals is on 9 June 2017. For more information, please visit our webpage and see the instruction on how to apply, or connect to us via Facebook.

Novel psychoactive substances: What educators need to know

Novel psychoactive substances (NPS) are synthetic drugs that act on the brain and that are not under international control. Sometimes called “designer drugs” or “legal highs,” NPS are often sold as alternatives to classic street drugs (e.g., ecstasy, LSD, marijuana, heroin) and pose a serious public health concern because of their toxic, sometimes fatal, effects.

As of 2015, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction was monitoring 463 NPS, many of which can cause serious harm. There is a need for prevention initiatives directly aimed at harms related to NPS.

However, preventing NPS-related harms is difficult for a number of reasons:

1.Playing catch-up: NPS come and go at an extremely fast rate. For those attempting to monitor the presence of and harms associated with NPS, these substances appear and disappear so fast that they have difficulty keeping up.

2.Limited information on NPS: There is almost no information available on the pharmacology or toxicity of many NPS. By the time people have gathered enough information on a substance, it has either disappeared from the drug market or has already caused significant harm. The constant replacement of NPS with other slightly modified versions means there is little or no reliable information on these substances.

3.People do not know what they are taking: People using drugs cannot be sure that what they are consuming is what they think they are consuming. They may think they are taking one drug, but really be using something that is or contains NPS. They are also taking drugs produced in labs that lack quality or cleanliness standards needed to produce pure, reliable substances. The purity and dose of substances can vary a lot, even within one pill or dose. People who use these drugs can then experience accidental overdose or unknown drug-drug interactions in cases where users are consuming more than one substance.

The people who use drugs and those who work among them need to be aware of the uncertainty and unpredictability of the effects of NPS. To prevent the negative consequencies associated with NPS use, it is important to know that people often do not know what they are taking or its potency – and to raise awareness about this lack of knowledge. Without highlighting this key message, there is risk that people will assume there fewer harms associated with NPS use because of the lack of information available on the potential harms. It is important to continue to educate people who decide to use drugs about the likelihood of not knowing what they are consuming.

This update is courtesy of the Prevention Hub, Canada (

For more information: Patterson, Z., Young, M.M., & Vaccarino, F.J. (2017). Novel psychoactive substances: what educators need to know. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 101(2), 173–175. Available at is external).

V International Conference on Novel Psychoactive Substances (UNODC Headquarters in Vienna, Austria)

The V International Conference on Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) will be held on 23-24 October 2017 at the United Nation Office in Vienna, Austria. The first four International Conferences on Novel Psychoactive Substances, held in Budapest (2012; 2015) Swansea (2013) and Rome (2014), were successful events to share knowledge and strengthen collaboration on NPS among multidisciplinary professionals at the international level. The conference is jointly organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), University of Hertfordshire and Sapienza University of Rome.

THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THIS CONFERENCE ARE: • Sharing evidence-based information on NPS and latest trends of misuse; • Improving understanding of clinical treatment and management of NPS use; • Exploring policy and legislative responses to NPS; • Developing innovative prevention measures for vulnerable individuals; • Identifying public health implications of NPS; • Exploring motivations and socio-cultural factors underlying NPS use; • Networking and providing the opportunity to meet leading experts in the field.


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