Home > Quality standards in substance-use education.

Farragher, Louise (2007) Quality standards in substance-use education. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 24, Winter 2007, pp. 23-24.

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A manual in quality standards in substance use education was launched on 10 September 2007.  The manual was produced by members of the Drug Education Workers Forum (DEWF), a voluntary organisation committed to identifying and responding to the needs of voluntary, community and statutory drug education workers in Ireland.   DEWF has identified a need for 'clear, practical information on best practice in substance use education in Ireland.'1 

The aim of the manual is to provide a clear framework for practitioners of substance use education, such as workers in drug education and community education or development, youth workers, and health promotion staff, and for individuals and agencies commissioning substance use education, such as youth work management boards, school boards of management and principals, and community education organisations. 

The manual was compiled by DEWF members who work in substance use education. It should be noted that it is not aimed at primary or post-primary teachers, who already have guidelines and resources in the Walk Tall and SPHE programmes. The manual is based on a substantial review of international research and best practice and  provides guidelines for the development and enhancement of substance use education in school, youth-work, and community-based settings. Three working groups were set up, each designed to address the needs of one of these settings.  Members of the working groups had experience and expertise in those settings and came from the community, voluntary and statutory sectors.  Other individuals and agencies were invited to contribute their expertise, and a series of focus groups was held with programme participants and substance use education providers. 

These standards will greatly enhance good practice and quality in this critical prevention/ education pillar of the National Drugs Strategy. It certainly represents a concrete example of collective reflection, peer support and professional development that members of the Forum have been engaged in since its formation. (Finbar O’Brien, NDST chair) 

The manual is highly structured and provides a consistent framework of standards across the three education settings. Elements common to the school and youth-work settings include substance use policy, managing incidents, and staff development.  Elements in the community-based setting include: education with drug service users, Travellers, and parents and guardians. 

The manual also includes a 'core skills and competencies' audit for practitioners at three levels:

  • foundation level, including core knowledge, attitudes and skills;
  • generalist competences, including substance use education and prevention work, targeted education, advice giving, programme deliver etc.;
  • specialist competencies.

DEWF is developing a training schedule to accompany the manual. It is envisioned that a two-day 'training of trainers' programme will be offered by members of the DEWF working groups.  This will enable trainers to offer in their own regions a one-day training programme on use of the manual .   

DEWF has emphasised the evaluation component of the manual.  It is hoped that users will become involved in an evaluation process, to enable further development and enhancement of the standards over time. 

The production of the manual was funded under the National Drugs Strategy. 

It is important to remember that everyone in society has a role to play in imparting and supporting substance use education and prevention messages. Substance use education belongs in schools, families, work places and other environments; it can contribute to the achievement of broader public health goals of preventing and reducing drug related harm for both the individual and society. (Feidhlim O Seasnáin, DEWF chair)


1. Butler E, Keane R, Rowley C, Smith S (2007) A manual in quality standards in substance use education. Dublin: Drug Education Workers Forum.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Education and training
Issue Title
Issue 24, Winter 2007
October 2007
Page Range
pp. 23-24
Health Research Board
Issue 24, Winter 2007
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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