UNODC: Acknowledge Youth as Key Stakeholders in the Standards of Prevention

UNODC: Acknowledge Youth as Key Stakeholders in the Standards of Prevention

SSDP’s recommendations to the UNODC were compiled and submitted by our Drug Education Manager, Dr. Vilmarie Narloch, Psy.D ’09

Recently, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime put out a call for civil society input as they update the International Standards of Drug Use Prevention. These standards were originally launched in 2013 and took into consideration studies published prior to 2012. The UNODC is looking to create a second edition of the Standards by taking stock of the recent developments in prevention research that have emerged over the past five years.

Input from civil society members was received in the form of a questionnaire that the UNODC sent out. SSDP responded to the questions asked with research supporting our belief in an integrated approach to prevention that includes young people as key stakeholders:

Please provide suggestions, if any, on how the methodology of the literature review, that was used as the basis of the Standards, could be strengthened.

The methodology might be improved by being more transparent about the case that many studies reviewing the effectiveness of prevention programs are completed by those who developed the program, and thus may indicate some potential bias.


Gandhi, A. G., Murphy-Graham, E., & Petrosino, A. (2007). The devil is in the details: Examining evidence for “proven” school-based drug abuse prevention programs. Evaluation Review, 31, 43-74. doi: 10.1177/0193841X06287188

In your opinion, are there areas of prevention that are supported by solid scientific evidence, but that were not fully reflected and described in the first edition of the Standards? If yes, please provide references (or when feasible electronic copies) of scientific studies demonstrating the effectiveness of such approaches. These studies could be in any language. For examples of such areas not sufficiently covered, please see chapter II of the Standards at page 39.


Utilizing participatory research methods and program development methods should be further highlighted as youth are key stakeholders in the interventions discussed in the standards.

Some references with regard to this include:

  • D’Emidio-Caston, M., & Brown, J. H. (1998). The other side of the story: Student narratives on the California Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Education Programs. Evaluation Review, 22, 95-117. doi: 10.1177/0193841X9802200105
  • Zeldin, S., McDaniel, A. K., Topitzes, D., & Calvert, M. (2000). Youth in decision-making: A study of the impacts of youth on adults and organizations. Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council.

Consideration for Peer to Peer strategies for prevention interventions:

  • Cuijpers, P. (2002). Peer-led and adult-led school drug prevention: A meta-analytic comparison. Journal of Drug Education, 32, 107-119. doi: 10.2190/LPN9-KBDC-HPVB-JPTM
  • Midford, R., Munro, G., McBride, N., Snow, P., & Ladzinski, U. (2002). Principles that underpin effective school-based drug education. Journal of Drug Education, 32, 363-386

It may be useful to further highlight the concept of an integrated approach to prevention, and the need for addressing specific socio-cultural and community-based needs. In other words, avoiding a “one-size-fits-all” approach that may not be effective for some populations, and calling for further research on interventions that can be adapted to meet those needs:

  • Nation, M., Crusto, C., Wandersman, A., Kumpfer, K. L., Seybolt, D., Morrisey-Kane, E., & Davino, K. (2003). What works in prevention: Principles of effective prevention programs. American Psychologist, 58, 449-456. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.58.6-7.449

Consider updating the language used in the standards from “substance abuse” to “substance misuse” in order to better clarify and operationalize the standards:

  • Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. (2016)). Glossary p.3-4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lastly, it would be helpful to consider how these standards are disseminated once developed. There are programs that are still being considered the “standard” in the U.S., despite potentially falling into those which have “Characteristics associated with no or negative prevention outcomes.” As such, ensuring key stakeholders at all levels of prevention implementation are receiving these standards is important to ensure effective programming is being considered over ineffective programming.