The European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS)

A brief introduction to the EDPQS (you can download the corresponding slides here)

The EDPQS provide a set of principles to help develop and assess the quality of drug prevention. They offer a comprehensive resource outlining all the elements of drug prevention activities. The EDPQS were developed by the European Prevention Standards Partnership from a research project co-funded by the European Union. The Partnership undertook a review and synthesis of existing international and national standards as well as consultations with more than 400 professionals in six European countries to identify what quality standards should apply to drug prevention activities.

The EDPQS offer the first European reference point on high quality drug prevention based on a consensus incorporating scientific evidence and practical experience.

What is Quality in Drug Prevention?

“Quality” is more than effectiveness or participant satisfaction. According to the EDPQS, high quality prevention activities are those which are:

  • Relevant to the target population
  • Ethical
  • Evidence-based
  • Able to provide evidence to inform future activities
  • (Cost) Effective
  • Feasible
  • Sustainable

You can read more about this in the EDPQS Position Paper.

The Quality Standards Cycle

The EDPQS are presented within a cycle structure with eight stages plus four cross-cutting considerations, outlining the necessary steps in planning, implementing and evaluating drug prevention activities. Each stage links to a more detailed explanation of how to promote quality in drug prevention.

Click here to view the EDPQS project stages

The project cycle

Organised in an eight-stage project cycle, the Standards cover the following areas:

Figure 1: Drug prevention project cycle

Please click on the image to see the full size version. Source: EMCDDA

  • Stage 1: Needs assessment
  • Stage 2: Resource assessment
  • Stage 3: Programme formulation
  • Stage 4: Intervention design
  • Stage 5: Management and mobilisation of resources
  • Stage 6: Delivery and monitoring
  • Stage 7: Final evaluations
  • Stage 8: Dissemination and improvement
  • Cross-cutting considerations are relevant for each project stage and are therefore placed in the centre of the project cycle. These Standards relate to (A) sustainability and funding, (B) communication and stakeholder involvement, (C) staff development, and (D) the ethics of drug prevention.

Components and attributes of high quality drug prevention work

Components within project stages

Please click on the image to see the full size version. Source: EMCDDA

  • The EDPQS identify 35 components of high quality drug prevention work (31 in project stages and 4 cross-cutting considerations). Please click on the image to the left to view a list of all components.
  • At the most detailed level, attributes provide descriptions of how each component can be achieved and evidenced (not shown here – please refer to the EMCDDA Manual).
  • At the attribute level, basic and expert level standards are distinguished to account for the variety of prevention work and the different capacities of organisations.

What is Drug Prevention?

There is no commonly accepted definition of ‘drug prevention’ in Europe, and the EDPQS do not attempt to provide a normative definition. For the purposes of the EDPQS, drug prevention is any activity that is aimed at preventing, delaying or reducing drug use, and/or its negative consequences across the lifespan in the general population or for individuals and groups. It can address legal drugs (e.g. alcohol, tobacco), illegal drugs, medication, or any other psychoactive substances – or substances in general. Drug prevention may also address common factors that reduce vulnerability to drug use or which promote healthy development in general. You can read more about this in the EDPQS Position Paper.

Why Quality Standards for Drug Prevention?

young_peopleIt is important to consider the quality of drug prevention – good intentions are not enough!

Only few people would argue with the view that prevention is better (and cheaper) than cure. However, a lot of what is done in the name of drug prevention is not based on what works or on what constitutes quality. In recent years there has been significant progress in understanding what works in prevention and about the quality standards that are relevant to prevention activities. Application of this learning will reduce the negative outcomes of poor quality work and produce substantial benefits for society including:

  • A decrease in substance use related harm
  • Adoption of healthier lifestyles
  • Reduction of negative social and economic outcomes
  • More efficient use of economic resources
  • Savings on costs from the reduced need for drug treatment
  • Increased competency and professionalism of those working in prevention

Therefore, identifying and encouraging quality in prevention work has been the focus of the EDPQS Project. You can find out more about the project by visiting the EDPQS Phase I and Phase II project pages. A full methodological report is also available here.

If you would like to know how quality standards can contribute to achieving these outcomes, please have a look at our EDPQS Theory of Change.

Who are the Standards for?

The Standards can be used by a wide range of people within the drug prevention community including:

  • Programme Developers
  • Programme Managers
  • Commissioners and Funders
  • Policy Makers
  • Service Managers and front-line Practitioners
  • School Teachers
  • Educators
  • Trainers
  • Evaluators
  • Researchers

We have developed Toolkits tailored to the needs of different professional groups. You can access them here.

How do the Standards help?

The Standards can be used to help:

  • Plan for quality in the development of new prevention initiatives
  • Identify the strong quality aspects of prevention initiatives
  • Develop and Improve the quality of existing prevention provision
  • Review the quality of ongoing or completed prevention initiatives
  • Assess whether a prevention related activity is undertaken or likely to operate in a way that can be considered “high quality” (see Toolkit 1)

The EDPQS can also be used in order to support:

  • Information and Awareness raising
  • Education and Training (see Toolkit 3)
  • Self-reflection and self-improvement (see Toolkit 2)
  • Professional development
  • Performance appraisal
  • Developing or updating existing quality criteria or standards (see Toolkit 4)

Read More

Following on from this overview of what the Standards contain and how they can be used, you may wish to:

  • Visit the resources page to access practical tools to help you promote and achieve quality in drug prevention (including a quick guide, self-reflection checklists and advocacy toolkits).
  • Look at examples of how the EDPQS have been used for different purposes.
  • Find out what has been happening in your country to promote the quality standards.
  • Check out the EMCDDA Manual which contains more detailed considerations regarding the project cycle, components and attributes, alongside further information on how the Standards should be used and what potential barriers may prevent their implementation.

Tip: The information on this page is also available as a ready-made handout.