Press Release

UNODC supports practitioners in South Eastern Europe and Italy in addressing drug use disorders among youths

31 May 2021

UNODC organized a regional capacity development online workshop on “Treatnet Family: Elements of Family Based Treatment for Youths with Drug Use Disorders including in Contact with the Criminal Justice System: Creating Societies Resilient to Drugs and Crime” for practitioners in South Eastern Europe and Italy with the kind support of the Government of Italy.

Adolescence is a time when an individual pattern of biopsychosocial risk and protective factors might increase or reduce vulnerability for the initiation of substance use or involvement in delinquency. Family can be both a risk and a protective factor and Treatnet Family is designed to enhance and strengthen the protective potential of family interactions in families with adolescents using substances including drugs. Treatnet Family is a science-informed training package on elements of family therapy, intended to support practitioners in the health, social and criminal justice sectors who work with youths and their families in resource limited settings, including those in contact with the criminal justice system. Treatnet Family is part of UNODC’s overall Treatnet training package for the treatment of drug use disorders and the initial development was supported by the government of Japan. Implementation has previously shown positive effects in reducing substance use, improving family functioning and mental health.

“Human connection is the opposite of addiction” could have been the motto of the UNODC Treatnet Family workshop with countries from South Eastern Europe and Italy: 35 practitioners from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, working with adolescents with substance use problems in their daily practice, joined the online meeting and in a participatory way enhanced their knowledge and skills on addressing issues related to drug use disorders among youths and related problems associated with family settings. The Treatnet Family trainers Molly Bobek and Hendrik Roozen in this workshop are experienced family therapies and trainers.


Caption: Nick Danziger for the UNODC-WHO programme on Drug Dependence Treatment and Care
Photo: © Nick Danziger

Treatnet Family focused on theoretical foundations and core assumptions of family therapy, the spectrum of substance use and substance use disorders and mostly on family therapy core strategies such as reframing and the phases of family therapy work. The five-day online workshop provided ample opportunity for exchange between professionals and to discuss ways to address drug use disorders, particularly among youth, as well as associated challenges.

Participating substance use disorder treatment professionals from the region enhanced their understanding of substance use problems in a systemic perspective and in various role plays learnt to help families break negative cycles in their interactions and instead explore new ways of more supportive interactions and taking care of each other.  A practical example of a perspective change and challenging gridlocked family interactions is captured in the phrase “Catch your child doing something nice” instead of looking out for a problem behavior. The event provided the opportunity for exchange and mutual support also at the regional level despite language barriers: the training was supported by simultaneous interpretation into seven languages.

When presenting their follow-up plans, many practitioners indicated their interest to support further expansion of substance use treatment services for adolescents, including through elements of family therapy, in their countries.

For more information:

UNODC Treatnet Family Brochure

UNODC Treatnet Training Package

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Goals we are supporting through this initiative