Prevention of Drug Use and Abuse through Art - Colombia

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This project is grounded in the assumption that to reach young people, particularly those living in marginalised areas, it is necessary to use a strategy that is suitable to their own world. Accordingly, this project utilises a medium that is flexible, emotional, creative, entertaining, non-dogmatic, and based on lived experiences. That medium is art.

The objective of the project is to prevent substance abuse among young people by strengthening those factors that protect them from the problem, such as definition of goals, improvement in self-esteem, development of identity, and fostering of communication and creative skills.
Communication Strategies: 

Two sub-projects have been conducted as part of this programme. First, Art in the Neighborhood: Prevention of Drug Use through Art works with young people in marginalised neighbourhoods of Barranquilla, the capital city of Atlantico and fourth largest city of Colombia. A number of these young people belong to displaced populations that have traveled to Barranquilla to flee from violence in rural areas. Over 120 youngsters have participated in this programme over a two-year period. Second, Young Atlantico: Prevention of Drug Use Among Young People reaches the Municipalities of Atlantico State. Nearly 800 young people have participated in this programme over a six-year period.


The project includes different art-related activities such as workshops in theater, dance, painting, music, as well as training in human development, income-generating activities, life skills, and prevention of drug use. As part of the effort to develop young people's creative artistic expressions, participants are required to compose stories on the basis of their own experience that are related to prevention of drug use. These stories are then dramatised and performed in a public forum at the community level.


A key component of the project is the development of community organisation and participation activities. Participants are encouraged to organise themselves in youth groups so that at the end of the project each group can develop its own plan of action.

Development Issues: 

Health, Youth, Substance Abuse.

Key Points: 

Young people in Atlantico State are confronted with a number of challenges in their daily life, such as domestic violence, the lack of authority figures, the lack of recreation facilities and opportunities, and low self-esteem, all of which can easily lead them to experiment with alcohol and drugs. In response, this project stimulates interaction between instructors and participants so that suggested preventative behaviours may be discussed and developed in an interactive way. Through art, the project seeks to counteract risk factors at the individual level, and then at family, social, and cultural levels. Motivating this programme is the belief that art facilitates free expression, creativity, and identity.

Partner Text: 

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), city and state governments.

Source: 

"Documenting and Sharing Learning in Health Communication for Development - A Literature Review." Prepared by Rafael Obregón, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Program of Social Communication, Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, Colombia. Submitted to Rob Vincent, Learning Coordinator, Exchange (July, 2001).

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