STAGE 4. Selecting the theoretical approach

What steps should be completed?

STEP 1: Select the theoretical approach or approaches on which the intervention will be based

Theoretical and practical dimensions are very closely related in the drug demand reduction field. The theory guides the action and fulfils significant functions in programme development, helping to incorporate the available evidence into the intervention planning process. Selecting a theoretical model (approach) to explain drug problems and behavioural change is a very necessary part of any drug demand reduction intervention. +

There are two important factors in the drug demand reduction field. The first is that, despite the large number of theories, some contradictory and some complementary, to explain drug use and drug addiction, they are not always used when preparing programmes. The second factor is that, despite currently having good programmes (preventive, welfare and support for social inclusion), they do not always include a detailed description of their theoretical basis. This situation reflects the complex relationship between theory and practice. As the habit of building interventions on solid theoretical bases becomes more established, we will be able to develop more interventions with quality guarantees.

Theoretical approaches in drug demand reduction programme planning try, on one hand, to explain and simplify the reality of drug addiction to make it accessible and, on the other hand, to provide guidance on the elements that must be included to achieve change in the intervention. There are no theories capable of fully explaining human behaviour, so it is necessary to resort to different theories that provide partial explanations about certain behavioural aspects. This is why drug demand reduction programmes are often based on more than one theoretical model (approach) that help to explain coherently and logically the relevant aspects of people’s relationships with drugs.

The choice of theoretical approach depends on various factors, and taking certain criteria into account can be of great help when assessing the relevance of different theoretical approaches to the intervention and helping select the most suitable approach for the intervention. +

  • Theoretical approaches to risk prevention and reduction. +
  • Theoretical approaches to treatment. +
  • Theoretical approaches to harm reduction. +
  • Theoretical approaches to social inclusion. +


Note: For the sake of simplification, One Step@a Time uses the concepts of "theory" and "theoretical model" as synonyms. However, some authors differentiate the concept of theory (model of explanation and prediction of general behaviour) from the theoretical model (specific application and integration of one or several theories into a specific field, in this case, drug use).