UNESCO IITE review of substance use prevention education in Eastern Europe and Central Asia used for global recommendation by UNESCO HQ, UNODC and WHO

UNESCO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released a joint publication on substance use: Good Policy and Practice in Health Education: Education sector responses to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

It presents evidence-based promising policies and best practice examples from different regions, which proved to be effective by scientific research. The manual is the result of an international consultation process involving literature reviews, international experts meeting and extensive research. Among other sources, the publication draws on the data from Substance use prevention in educational settings in Eastern Europe and Central Asia report, produced by UNESCO IITE.

The research shows that the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs – referred to as ‘substance use’ commonly begins in adolescence and that it is linked with a number of negative consequences such as poor school engagement and educational performance, problems with attendance including school drop-out. Another danger of substance use is negative impact on young people’s mental and physical health as well as on their well-being over the short and long term. Education is a platform that engages children and young people at a crucial stage in their development, and helps them assess and counter these risks and pressures. The education sector has therefore a fundamental responsibility to prevent and address substance use among adolescents.

The joint UNESCO-UNODC-WHO publication describes key principles of effective substance use-prevention education. It includes basing all responses on scientific evidence, considering the prevalence and patterns of substance use in a given context, starting the preventive work early and focusing on strengthening the emotional and social life skills of children and adolescents.

All of these steps require the education sector to adopt a comprehensive approach to mobilize the whole system in collaboration with other sectors, in particular the health sector and drug control authorities in order to strengthen and accelerate the joint response to substance use.

Christophe Cornu, Senior Programme Specialist at UNESCO: “The value added of this new resource is that, for the very first time, a publication considers all components of a comprehensive education sector response to substance use, moving away from a focus on school-based interventions only.”