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


What are its bases?

This is a model (approach) with little conceptual development, inspired by the Harm Reduction model. It is based on the premise that, for various reasons, some people want to use drugs, and they assume the risks that drug use may entail. Faced with this fact, lifestyles and behaviours that help make drug use as safe as possible should be promoted. The main objective of this model (approach) is not abstinence, but minimising the problems and risks of drug use.

Which determinants can be addressed?

This model (approach) can work with personal and contextual determinants. In fact, within the risk-reduction model (approach), it is possible to differentiate two approaches according to the degree of risk of the target audience, and these are generally combined to enhance their effects; on the one hand, policies, programmes and actions aimed at reducing the undesirable consequences or effects of drug use on the population as a whole, irrespective of their level of risk. On the other hand, interventions that aim to reduce risks in drug users by modifying their behaviour.

Practical implications

Risk-reduction interventions target non-addicted drug users and the general population who may be directly affected by user behaviours in order to reduce exposure to risks or minimise the effect of exposure on the individual’s health, social welfare and finances. It excludes interventions aimed at the whole population or specific groups that are intended to reduce risk factors and increase protection factors, as they are part of the prevention field. Interventions aimed at drug addicts, which would be framed in the treatment or harm reduction fields, are also excluded.


Some practical strategies that arise from this model (approach) are creating tobacco smoke-free spaces, modifying patterns of tobacco or alcohol consumption, reducing the quantities of alcohol and tobacco consumed, preventing driving or risky sexual practices under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and restricting the supply of alcoholic beverages.