STAGE 5. Defining the action plan
What steps should be completed?
Step 1: Specify intervention actions
Environmental prevention strategies aim to change the context in which people decide on their drug use. That is, the immediate physical, cultural, social, legal and economic environment that affects decisions on drug use. This perspective considers that people do not consume substances solely on the basis of their personal characteristics, but they are also influenced, to a large extent, by environmental factors, such as the behaviours that are considered normal, expected or acceptable in the community in which they live, the availability and accessibility of drugs, exposure to advertising messages, etc.
Environmental prevention strategies are orientated towards the community or society in general. They often include components related to market control or implementation of regulatory measures, but they can also aim to provide opportunities and encourage change in environments close to the individual. This type of prevention can help to change the perception of social norms and attempts to encourage contextual and lasting interventions where it is easier not to consume, rather than merely trying to convince people not to use drugs.
Environmental strategies can be applied at a macrosocial, mesosocial and microsocial level. Some examples of environmental prevention strategies at the macrosocial level are government activities, such as legislation and taxes, restrictions on sale, labelling rules, age-of-purchase controls, prohibitions or restrictions on advertising, etc.
Environmental strategies at the mesosocial level focus on restricting drug availability and reducing harm in the user environment. Some examples of environmental prevention strategies at this level are licensing leisure premises on condition that certain requirements are met, establishing police or neighbourhood watch systems, drug policies in schools, etc.
Interventions on the microsocial level include those that are focused on the family environment (aimed at encouraging positive child-nurturing styles and establishing family rules on drug use), interventions to improve the school environment, and school prevention programmes to critically analyse social norms, attitudes and expectations about substance use and correct erroneous normative beliefs (often overestimated) about the prevalence of drug use among peers (normative education).
* Based on Burkhart, G. (2011). Environmental drug prevention in the EU. Why is it so unpopular? Adicciones. 23(2): 87-100.