BACKGROUND: The identity and social representation of people linked to drugs depend on their interaction with the system that collects and analyses the critical data used to describe it. AIM: The aim of this study is to see if by adopting a non-institutional and non-formal approach the drug users’ profile will be different from that in mainstream formal studies.
METHODS: Data was collected using a Community Treatment information and systematization tool (First Contact Form – FCF). Critical information on 6,090 cases was systematized. Data was collected by teams implementing Community Treatment in Argentina: SEDRONAR (SDR) 2,680 cases (48.1% F, 50.3% M, and 0.3% T), in Colombia: Consentidos (CNS) 2,096 cases (42.6% F, 56.7% M, and 0.7% T), and Viviendo (VIV) 1,382 cases (52.2% F, 46.7% M, and 1.0% T). Additional data on 5,095 cases coming from Prochesta, Baraca, and Smile (Bangladesh) is included to highlight the impact of different settings.
RESULTS: The drug users’ profile obtained using a non-formal approach based on Community Treatment is different from that obtained with formal and institutional processes.
CONCLUSION: Community Treatment, adopting a double strategy (social inclusion and public health), allows people who, because of age, sex, personal, or community vulnerabilities, do not establish any contact with services, to get into treatment or support programmes. The profile of drug users and their communities produced by this approach allows the better targeting of policies and service providers.