Home > European Prevention Curriculum Handbook.

Dillon, Lucy (2020) European Prevention Curriculum Handbook. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 72, Winter 2020, pp. 24-25.

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The European Prevention Curriculum (EUPC) is a programme of training, the primary goal of which is ‘to reduce the health, social and economic problems associated with substance use by building international prevention capacity through the expansion of the European professional prevention workforce’ (p. 10).1 It originated as an American training programme, the Universal Prevention Curriculum (UPC), and underwent a rigorous adaptation process to ensure its suitability for the European context.2 The latest output from this work is the EUPC Handbook, published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).1,3 

The primary purpose of the handbook is to provide reference material for the EUPC training courses for local and regional decision-makers, opinion-makers, and policymakers working in the field of substance use prevention across Europe. However, the handbook offers a valuable introduction to prevention science and science-based interventions, which should be of use to all stakeholders with an interest in the field. 

Necessity for EUPC

In his foreword to the report, Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA Director, emphasises the need for a more science-based approach to prevention across Europe. While progress has been made in ‘developing responsible and science-based prevention interventions’, he notes that:

Nevertheless, many challenges remain and, in many countries, we continue to see prevention practices for which there is little or no evidence of effectiveness being implemented in both school and community settings. In the worst cases, poorly designed prevention interventions may even cause harm. (p. 7)

It is within this context that the EMCDDA supports the development and delivery of high-quality training for those working in the sector, where the handbook is seen as a key component of this work. 

Content of EUPC handbook

The handbook is divided into two broad parts: the first part focuses on the general concepts underpinning effective prevention, while the second part explores prevention approaches in different settings. Based on an outline given in the introduction to the handbook, there are four substantive chapters in the first part (p. 14). They cover the following: 

  • The link between epidemiology and aetiological theories: It offers an understanding of the role prevention can play in addressing the development of substance use disorders.
  • Common theories used by prevention scientists when developing and evaluating effective prevention interventions and policies: It is argued that awareness of these theories is important for understanding which elements are necessary or useful in developing and/or adapting prevention interventions in different contexts and settings.
  • Evidence-based prevention interventions and policies: It focuses on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) International Standards on Drug Use Prevention4 and the EMCDDA’s European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS).5 This chapter also contrasts evidence-based approaches, which advocate the use of standardised interventions, with tailor-made approaches, which are often based on professional experience and presented needs. This discussion highlights how different approaches are used across Europe.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: It provides an overview of different types of evaluation research that can be used to monitor or evaluate the effects of an intervention or policy.

The second part of the handbook focuses on prevention in different settings. The areas covered include family; school and workplace; environment; media; and community. The challenges of delivering prevention interventions in each setting are discussed, as well as a focus on evidence-based practices across the settings in Europe and a more detailed discussion of interventions. 


1  European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) (2019) European prevention curriculum: a handbook for decision-makers, opinion-makers and policy-makers in science-based prevention of substance use. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/31119/

2  The EUPC was developed by a European project entitled UPC-Adapt. It was co-funded by the EMCDDA and the European Commission. Eleven partners from nine European countries cooperated on the project and adapted the UPC to suit a European audience. The UPC was originally developed by Applied Prevention Science International (APSI) with funding from the US Department of State to the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Programme. Adaptation of the UPC for the European context was based on the guidelines of the European Prevention Standards Partnership on adaptation and dissemination of quality standards in different contexts (EDPQS Toolkit 4). For further information on UPC-Adapt, visit: http://upc-adapt.eu/

3  The handbook is intended for training purposes only by individuals who have completed a required course. The criteria for delivery of EUPC courses can be found at: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/best-practice/european-prevention-curriculum . Details of current training providers are also found on the website. Email EUPC@emcdda.europa.eu for related enquiries and feedback.

4  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2018) International Standards on Drug Use Prevention. 2nd edn. Vienna: UNODC, World Health Organization. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30048/

5  European Drug Prevention Partnership (2015) European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS) Toolkits 1–4. Liverpool: Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University and EMCDDA. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/24582/

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