Rapid Assessment of Drug Abuse Prevention Needs for Youth in Small Spanish Municipalities: Coping with Resource Limitations

Article excerpt

This study evaluates the drug abuse prevention needs for Spanish youth in municipalities with a population below 7,000 inhabitants in the province of Valencia, Spain. The primary goal of the project was to generate policy and to identify possible courses of drug prevention in these towns. The project utilized the basic RARE model. Grounded Theory was used to frame the qualitative analysis. Interviews with local cultural experts provided strong evidence that many specifically mandated prevention needs are not adequately covered in small municipalities. The data emphasizes the ways in which young people are critical of the prevention actions directed at them. The recommended programs emphasize (1) joint actions using youth networks, (2) educating parents to take an active role in the prevention chain, (3) extending the range and availability of leisure activities, and (4) making sure that the information campaigns are adapted to the interests of young people.

INTRODUCTION

The Province of Valencia, Spain, is the largest of the three provinces that comprise the Autonomous Region of Valencia: Castellon, Valencia, and Alicante. Valencia is strategically located at the center of the Spanish East Mediterranean coast, opposite the Balearic Islands and just 350 kilometers from the two major Spanish cities, Madrid and Barcelona.

The Spanish federal government has established a number of governmental mandates that are designed to promote and support community-based drug prevention programs for Spanish youth. Government sponsored prevention programs are distributed throughout the Spanish provinces based on municipal demographics and perceived need. In Valencia, the mandated social programs and drug prevention resources are exclusively located in towns with more than 7,000 inhabitants, leaving a proportion of the population without local services. The province of Valencia has a total population of 2,201,200 inhabitants, 15.6% of whom live in towns with less than 7,000 people. The distribution of small municipalities is identified in Table 1.

Comparing the map of service resources with the distribution of small municipalities indicates that there are broad areas in which rural and small town areas predominate in Valencia. These regional variations produce environments in which young people do not have the same access to drug prevention resources or leisure activities that would reduce the prevalence of drinking or drug experimentation as do their urban contemporaries.

The Spanish Youth Report for the year 2000 (Martin & Velarde, 2000) provides critical baseline evidence on the alcohol, drug, and addiction prevention needs of Spanish youths. Amongst a large number of findings, members of the Diputación de Valencia, an assembly of city councils in Valencia, found that the information about young people's use of leisure space in private and public contexts was a critical area for targeting an investigation of prevention needs and understanding any gaps between current services and current needs. The report demonstrates that in private space (especially at home), watching television is the most popular activity for young people (88.9%), while in public space, the activities of young people are centered around their relations with other youths and adults. They predominantly use urban public spaces (parks, gardens, and streets) as a significant part of their leisure activities and socialization process. However, their developing relationships with friends, and eventually with a partner, begin in enclosed public spaces - specifically, in bars, clubs and discotheques (Martin, 2002). Socializing, especially on the weekend, is the primary time when most young people acquire and exercise their own identity through social experimentation (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 200Oa). It is also during the weekend when young people frequently consume drugs; 43% of young people between the ages of 14 and 18 who have consumed alcohol within the last 30 days did so at the weekend (Plan Nacional sobre Drogas, 2002). …