Education and development of social and emotional skills prevent substance use, says United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Education and the development of social and emotional skills prevent substance abuse.

Listen First Presents: The Book Challenge.

Develop your super skills – and prosper!

“Super Skills” promotes the development of social and emotional skills to prevent substance use prevention, says the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Education brings hope and motivation to communities at a time when it is most needed. The acquisition of social and emotional skills is extremely important for children and young people to succeed in life.

— Ms. Giovanna Campello, Chief of Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation, UNODC

VIENNA, AUSTRIA, Jan. 24, 2022 / — Celebrating this International Day of Education on January 24, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stresses that education is essential for success in preventing substance use. It is also essential to fulfill international commitments such as human rights, peace and development, fight against poverty and inequality, including to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations and the international community.

Schools and teachers play a vital role in preventing substance use, laying the foundation for a healthy lifestyle and providing children and young people with the information and skills to succeed in life. Sadly, many children and young people have been denied their rights to education during the pandemic and the national shutdowns that have followed the closure of schools around the world. The difference in access to education unfortunately remains a question of gender and socio-economic status.

According to UNESCO, “258 million children and young people are still out of school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read or do basic mathematics; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and young refugees are out of school.

To celebrate this year’s International Day of Education, UNODC and its Drug Prevention Branch have released a new video and educational materials as part of its ‘Listen First’ project, ‘Super skills – The science of skills”.

‘Super Skills: The Science of Skills’ emphasizes the development of social and emotional skills in substance use prevention and targets primary school-aged children and those who work with them, particularly educators, health and prevention professionals and decision makers.

UNODC partners with Member States and organizations around the world to promote evidence-based drug use prevention in education among educators, health and prevention workers and policy makers.

One of the partners is the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education: “We coordinated the dissemination of the ‘Listen First’ campaign through programs, workshops and an educational radio, produced for families,” explains Ms. Divina García of the Ministry of Education and Head of the Family Guidance and Support Unit, Dominican Republic.

“Social and emotional learning and life skills development help young people adopt healthy social behaviors. Therefore, we have strengthened our teachers with new pedagogical and interactive methods to work with students and provided technical capacities, mentors and ambassadors. We have also emphasized risk and prevention factors in our work with families,” she notes. “Providing normative beliefs and life skills that form or reinforce prosocial attitudes and behaviors can empower children and adolescents to identify and manage high-risk situations. The aim is to increase the resilience of young people at risk, using sport as a link to reduce anti-social behavior and develop life skills, promote a healthy and safe lifestyle which has an impact on education, reduce school dropout and strengthen the links between schools and the community. She concludes, “We look forward to continuing to use ‘Listen First’ and implementing the materials into our current prevention programs. »

According to science, strengthening the development of social and emotional skills is the most effective substance abuse prevention measure in elementary-aged children. Additionally, an investment in the development of social and emotional skills improves overall mental and physical health, academic performance, and later job satisfaction and success in adults. In light of this, UNODC has been promoting its ‘Listen First’ initiative since 2016. ‘Listen First’ promotes science-based substance use prevention that focuses on listening to children and young people.

The latest video, The Book Challenge, produced by Ethan Films, is an adventure to overcome your fears.

Endorsed by international partners, such as the US-based National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) and Movendi International, Listen First materials are free and available for educators, parents, teachers, policy makers, health workers, prevention workers and the general public.

The program has been adopted in countries like Finland, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Latin America, and more will follow in 2022.

The videos are complemented by educational materials focused on developing social and emotional skills. Listen First materials are available in English, Spanish, French and other languages ​​on the website:

The rigorous science behind this program is summarized in the UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention.

UNODC invites Member States and organizations interested in using or even translating “Listen First” to get in touch!

for more information contact

Jenny Roston Lundstrom
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