We mirror our behaviour to that of those around us. That’s how we learn as toddlers. It’s how we form a style when we are teenagers and it’s how we shape our personalities throughout our life. But, when it comes to substance use, our perception about others is often skewed.
Our research shows how a lot of respondents tend to normalise unhealthy behaviour, because one assumes others also engage in this behaviour frequently. We overestimate the amount of unhealthy behaviour in others, while underestimating the frequency of their healthy behaviour.
With this campaign, we focus on showing you the reality behind substance use. We don’t condone or forbid the use of substances, but we believe you should make your decisions based on facts.
We want to show people not what they believe to be true about others, but the actual figures on substance use.


We have created an informative animation for educative purposes.
In this video we have summarised the most important ideas behind the Social Norms Approach and we present you with some facts and figures from our own research. Feel free to use this video to your advantage.
You may, for example, use this video to explain the SNA principle in classes or in a consultation with a beneficiary.

how to implement sna

The Social Norms Approach is a renowned and proven methodology in changing human behaviour. If implemented correctly, the facts and figures you communicate might change your beneficiaries’ stance on (mis)perceived social norms.
By talking about the facts together, you may spark a bit of motivation to change not only their stance, but also their behaviour. Not by judging their use, but just by making them realise their use might be above-average. We are not saying that reading the facts alone can help everyone off of their use, but it might spark change.
We have gathered some tips on how to engage in conversations with beneficiaries whose use worries you.


You wish to discuss your beneficiary’s alcohol-, drugs- or medicine (ab)use and you think the Social Norms Approach might help you communicate your worries to them. How do you handle this?

We have gathered some tips!  
Communicate your worries in a non-accusatory tone. Make sure your beneficiary sees your worries coming from a place of care. You can do this by saying “I worry about you, could it be that…”.
Expressing these worries will already have a preventive effect!

However, more often, topics like these might not be resolved in a single conversation. Please be aware that your worries might not be shared by your beneficiary. They might feel the problem is non-existent or less serious than you feel. Don’t let this difference in perception be a conversation killer, but rather make it a topic of the conversation. Name this difference and try to make your beneficiary realise the problem might be bigger than they think. You know you have created a motivation for change when your beneficiary starts reflecting on their own use.
As a welfare worker you might have a good feeling of what motivates your client. These motivators differ greatly within everyone. For some, it might be the health benefits of quitting their use, for others the money they would save. You can make them realise they might have missed (social) opportunities due to a hangover or you can ask them to reflect on their job performances.
Whatever your angle, we recommend defining very clear and direct short-term effects of their use. These personal effects can act as very tangible incentives that they themselves can see improve or worsen over time.
Don’t start accusing someone of being addicted or forbidding certain behaviour. As a welfare worker, you are there to help. Attacking someone head-on might turn the conversation into a confrontation. And that might hurt more than the conversation alone.
Stick with what you do see and know.

Maybe your client looks tired, lost a lot of weight, can’t get out of bed, lost its appetite or suffers from diseases that signal excessive use of certain substances. Ask them if they think your observations are sound and ask them how they think it happened. As someone who is close and distanced enough at the same time, they might share more with you than their direct peers.
Keep checking with your client to see if they still agree with what you are observing and explain that you are not there to punish them, but to help them out.
When the conversation gets going, your client might also show interest in your own use.
Try being honest about that! It can really help to share your experiences.
Also share with them how you make sure you keep your use responsible.
Not sharing any personal matter can have an opposite effect. If you wish to steer away from getting too personal, you might use our facts and figures to show the different groups of users. You might add by saying to what group you think you belong. You might follow this up by asking to which group of users your client thinks it belongs.
Use the facts if you are using our flyers or posters as a way to communicate with your clients one on one. You can download these below or request the full promotional package through the form at the bottom of the page. In our campaign, we try to steer away from being judgemental or prejudiced. We support the decision to drink less, but never judge someone for not making this decision (yet).
Try communicating in a similar matter. Support the choices someone makes, but make sure to clarify that certain assumptions the user makes might be skewed. You can back this up with our research. Ask them questions like: “What percentage of the people your age do YOU think drink just as often as you do?” or “How many people your age do you think take unprescribed medicine?”

Get some expert-guidance

However well the conversation goes, a sensitive issue like this might not be resolved after a good talk or discussion. In some cases, it can be beneficial to get the opinion of a trained addiction prevention professional. Below you’ll find relevant and affiliated healthcare organisations in your region. Do not hesitate to call on them for some expert guidance or action plans.



Facts and figures form the foundation of this campaign. They speak to the imagination and are helpful tools in strengthening a message and making it stick. One glance at a poster with a quote about drinking can make an impact, but when we communicate the corresponding figures, it’s the numbers that keep ringing in your head.
Want to use the SNA to create awareness in your client?
Our posters and flyers will help you do just that. Use them to get a conversation going or use the numbers to have your client reflect upon. You may download the materials through the button below or order the high-quality prints, free of charge, by filling in the form.


(Promotional package)




This campaign revolves around statistics taken from our Euroregional Health Survey.

This online survey was conducted from September 2019 to January 2020 and was presented to citizens, aged 55+ years old, living in The Netherlands (Zuid Limburg), Belgium (Provincie Limburg, Ostbelgien and Liège) and Germany (Aachen, Euskirchen, Heinsburg and Bitburg-Prüm). To ensure safety in answering questions regarding substance use, respondents remained anonymous throughout the survey.

We asked these respondents to give us an indication of their substance use and also asked how they felt other people their age would score on these same questions. Interestingly, the SNA appeared to be applicable in nearly all proposed situations. We clearly saw how respondents had a tendency to downplay healthy behavior among their peers while overestimating their unhealthy behavior. Curious to all facts and figures? You may download the report below.



Choose your region..