Substance Use Prevention for Adolescents: The Icelandic Model

Back in the 1990s, results from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) highlighted concerning levels of adolescent substance use in Iceland. Since the publication of the ESPAD results, Icelandic authorities have made a considerable effort to reverse these trends, with a fair level of success.

Through detailed analysis of the typical risk and protective factors, adolescents are exposed to, social scientists began to develop an evidence-based approach to adolescent substance use prevention- the Icelandic Model. The Model follows a community-based, bottom-up approach designed to deter adolescent substance use and promote opportunities for positive youth development.

The Model is culturally sensitive to the Icelandic values of independence, cooperation and roles for everyone. It emphasises the importance of family, sensitive parenting and building a supportive and linked community around each young person. There is also an emphasis on engaging young people in organised youth activities. 

Overall initial results show a steady decline of young people who reported being drunk during the last 30 days, smoking one cigarette or more per day and having tried hashish from 1997 to 2007. Positive family interaction increased and there were several community improvements. These results highlight the potential effectiveness of Models like the one implemented in Iceland in reducing problem adolescent substance use.

Sigfúsdóttir, Inga Dóra, Thorolfur Thorlindsson, Álfgeir Logi Kristjánsson, Kathleen M. Roe, and John P. Allegrante. "Substance use prevention for adolescents: the Icelandic model." Health Promotion International 24, no. 1 (2008): 16-25.
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