On June 28-30, 2023, the 17th National Conference on the Problems of Drug Use Prevention was held in the city of Pernik. It was organised by the Secretariat of the National Drugs Council and the Municipal Drugs Council – Pernik, with the assistance of the National Center for Public Health and Analyses and the Regional Health Inspectorate – Pernik.

The forum was attended by more than 100 experts in the field of drug prevention from all over the country.

The conference began with a congratulatory address from the Minister of Health Prof Hristo Hinkov and congratulatory words from Mr Stefan Krastev, Deputy Mayor of Pernik Municipality and Chairman of the Municipal Drugs Council – Pernik.

The main focus of the forum was current good practices in the field of drug use prevention, with which specialists from prevention and information centres (PICs) work. Such practices were presented by PIC Pernik, PIC Shumen, PIC Pleven (the “Lend a hand” example), Directorate “Preventions” Varna (“Digital platform for the prevention of risky behaviour”), PIC Kardzhali (“Sport and art hand in hand in prevention”) , PIC Stara Zagora (“The road – to freedom and inner strength”), PIC Ruse (group for “Mutual help of parents of addicts”), PIC Dobrich, PIC Yambol, Plovdiv PIC and PIC Blagoevgrad.

A number of questions were raised for discussion such as: prevention of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs; the dangers to society as the emergence of new psychoactive substances expands and the measures being taken; an increase in the use of snus and nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) among young people; development of normative documents for regulating the activity of MDC and PIC; organisational issues regarding the training of experts in the PIC, etc.

Special attention was paid to the development of a project of a prevention programme, in accordance with the requirements of Ordinance No. 6 of 11.04.2014 on the terms and conditions for the implementation of programmes on drug use prevention of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and Science and the European drug prevention quality standards of EMCDDA.

National programmes for the prevention of drug use in the school environment have been operating in Bulgaria for several years – respectively “Code Name Life” (for school students in grades 5-7) and “Peer to Peer” (for school students in grades 8-11). In connection with this, the question of their effectiveness and the possibilities of performing such an assessment is becoming more and more relevant. For this purpose, surveys have been developed, which, by being released at the beginning and end of the implemented interventions in the schools, will show whether the goal and tasks have been achieved.

In the framework of the forum, introductory training was carried out for newly appointed experts (on subjects of types of addictions and the organisation of psychiatric care in Bulgaria) and upgrading training for experts with one to three years of experience (for work with risk groups).