Aims and benefits

Refugees are particularly at risk of developing hazardous substance use or substance use disorders. At the same time, refugees are less frequently reached by addiction psychosocial services. Strategies to prevent or reduce addiction problems in refugees that are tailored to the needs of this group are therefore urgently needed.

Against this background, the PREPARE network pursues the following objectives:

1) To provide systematic evidence of problematic substance use in refugees
2) Identification of principles and strategies of good care practice in addiction care for refugees
3) To improve the assessment of problematic substance use in refugees and to evaluate innovative interventions
4) Indicated prevention of substance-related disorders in refugees
5) Evaluation of an integrative treatment approach for traumatized refugees with substance-related problems

Additional information

To achieve these goals, the research network will apply a spectrum of methodological approaches in four closely interlinked projects, including rapid assessments, analysis of registry data, qualitative studies, and two trials.

Project 1 will assess the scope of problematic substance use and the use of psychosocial services for refugees in Germany. In addition, principles and strategies of good care practice for refugees will be systematically reviewed and made available. Project 2 aims to provide a systematic overview of frequently used measures for the diagnosis of substance use disorders and their quality in refugees. In project 3, a culturally sensitive smartphone-based brief intervention for refugees with hazardous substance use will be developed and evaluated. In project 4, an integrative group treatment approach for refugees with post-traumatic distress and existing substance-related problems will be evaluated.

To make the products and results of the network accessible to a broad public, a national web-based resource center will be implemented at the German Head Office for Addiction Issues (DHS).

Expected results: We will provide systematic evidence on substance-related problems in refugees, establish a framework for good practice in providing interventions for this group, and provide innovative measures for prevention and treatment. Given the lack of data in this field, we expect that our results will be highly relevant at both the national and international levels.


Prof. Dr. Ingo Schäfer
+49 40 7410 59290

Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie
Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
Martinistraße 52
20246 Hamburg


Project duration

02/2019 until 01/2026



SP1: Acquisition of substance use data and principles of good practice in care services

Short description

In light of a lack of Data on substance related disorders among refugees this subproject aims to identify vulnerable groups and used substances, substance use related problems and factors that lead to substance use in seven major cities along with an adjacent rural area.

Furthermore „good practice“ strategies in addiction care for refugees in Germany will be identified. Finally, the addiction care facilities in Germany will be surveyed to what extent these strategies are already applied.

Location: Berlin

Project details

SP3: BePrepared – A Culture-sensitive online intervention for young refugees with hazardous substance use

Short description

BePrepared covers the development and evaluation of a brief smartphone intervention for young refugees with hazardous use of alcohol and cannabis. The BePrepared App is free of charge, anonymous and available in five languages: Arabic, German, English, Farsi and Pashto. By offering a digital and culture-sensitive intervention the project contributes to addiction prevention in the hard-to-reach and underserved population of young refugees.

Orte: Köln, Berlin

Project details

SP4: Effectiveness of a culture-sensitive therapy to improve affect regulation in refugees with substance use problems

Short description

Subproject 4 examines the effectiveness of an integrative group therapy (STARC) for refugees with post-traumatic symptoms and hazardous substance use or a substance use disorder. STARC is a culturally sensitive, transdiagnostic group therapy approach, which aims to improve affect regulation.

Ort: Hamburg

Refugees can participate: Yes
Target audience: Männliche Geflüchtete ab 18
Project details