Phase I of the European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS) Project

Project name: European standards in evidence for drug prevention

Why were the European standards developed?

When the project began in 2008, drug prevention quality standards were available only in some Member States of the EU. The available guidance varied in terms of its content, methodological rigour, and applicability beyond the regional/national context. Consequently, a common European framework on drug prevention was missing. It was also not clear to what extent internationally available guidance was relevant to drug prevention in Europe, and how it could be adapted to the European context (for example, the “Standards of Evidence” published by the USA Society for Prevention Research in 2004).

The need for a European drug prevention framework was apparent in EU policy documents, such as the EU Drugs Action Plans. These had expressed an intention to develop and implement best practice in drug prevention, but without being able to provide a reference framework on how to do this. The Prevention Standards Partnership, a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral collaboration of partner institutions in six EU countries, was formed in response to this situation.


Phase I of the European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS) project aimed to provide an empirically derived reference framework to bridge the gaps between science, policy and practice. The specific objectives of Phase I were to compile, review and analyse existing drug prevention standards in EU Member States, and to publish a common set of quality standards for drug prevention activities in Europe.

How the Standards were developed

From a theoretical point of view, Phase I of the EDPQS project distinguished between quality standards and practice guidelines. Quality standards were understood to focus on formal aspects of general quality assurance (e.g. staff training), while guidelines were seen to give instructions on the content of interventions for specific circumstances (e.g. number, duration and content of sessions in response to specific target population needs). It has been observed that adherence to minimal technical standards improves design and outcomes of prevention interventions. It was therefore argued that the focus on quality standards would allow: (1) transference of knowledge and evidence between different countries, and (2) to establish common ground in public health, where guidelines are rarely as specific as clinical guidance.

The project methodology involved three dependent stages:

  1. Review of existing guidance: Available national and international drug prevention standards and guidelines were collated (see the EMCDDA’s Best Practice Portal for a selection of retrieved documents), and documents suitable for review were identified. This included two sets of guidelines and nineteen documents containing quality standards. Guidelines were reviewed using an adapted version of the AGREE tool as well as the AGREE II tool. Quality standards were synthesised in a systematic and iterative manner through qualitative content analysis, and a first draft of standards was generated.
  2. Consultations regarding content of Standards: The draft standards’ relevance was then rated through an online Delphi survey consisting of two rounds (423 participants). Additionally, expert focus groups were conducted in five European countries with drug professionals and policy makers (122 participants). The findings highlighted the most important items in the draft standards and how the framework might fit within the wider European context. Consequently, a second draft of standards was produced.
  3. Consultations regarding practical usefulness of Standards: In the final stage, the practical applicability of standards in professional’s everyday practice was explored. In structured consultations, the second draft standards were assessed in terms of their practical feasibility and usefulness, and information was collected on how the Standards might be developed further in the future (72 participants). This feedback enabled the partnership to produce a final version of the Standards, consisting of basic and expert Standards and detailed guidance on how to use them.

Click here to view further details about the consultations

Consultations took place in six countries with over 400 professionals:

  • Galicia (Spain)
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • United Kingdom
The sampling frame covered ten professional backgrounds:

  • Regional drug teams or networks
  • Education
  • Health
  • Mental Health
  • Social services/ Children, young people, families
  • Criminal Justice
  • Voluntary/ Community sector
  • Government representatives
  • Prevention consultants
  • Media

Further details on the methodology used to develop the Standards in Phase I can be found in the project report submitted to the European Commission.

How to access the Standards

A year after the end of the EDPQS Phase I project, in December 2011, the Standards were formally published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in its Manual series. The official launch took place on 9th December 2011 in Lisbon, Portugal, at the conference of the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR).

View the EDPQS Manual Access all EDPQS resources

What happened after Phase I or The need for Phase II

The availability of an agreed framework that is adaptable to local circumstances should provide an incentive for EU Member States to develop quality standards where these did not previously exist, or to review and update existing quality standards, and adopt the Prevention Standards for their own use. Adoption of the Standards should improve drug prevention practice and efficiency of funding, and reduce the likelihood of implementation of ineffective and iatrogenic interventions. Thus, the Standards should support the fulfilment of local, regional, national and international drug strategies and policies.

Although some members of the prevention community applied the Standards successfully in their work, the structured consultations undertaken during Phase I indicated that without widespread dissemination of the Standards, their positive impact would be limited. There was therefore a need for further activities to facilitate and promote uptake of the Standards in practice. Phase II of the Prevention Standards project was implemented to address this challenge by developing supporting materials and demonstrating how the Standards could be applied in practice.


Phase I of the European Drug prevention Quality Standards project started in September 2008 and finished in November 2010, with publication of the Standards in December 2011. Phase II started in April 2013.



The Phase I project was co-funded by the European Union under the Programme of Community Action in the field of Public Health (2003-2008). Project name: “European standards in evidence for drug prevention”, Project No. 2007304. To find out more, visit



Publication of the Standards as a Manual was funded by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) (