There is an increasing tendency to get service users, such as Drug Users (DU’s) involved in health services and health policies. Participation is seen as an indispensible ingredient for good and effective policymaking and there exist numerous best practice examples of peer involvement in the field of health promotion and prevention. Health policies and health interventions are considered to be more effective and supported, when all relevant parties and communities (including civil society and the final target group) are being involved equally. In addition, policy makers and professionals realise that it is no longer appropriate to talk about and not with the final target group. All kind of communities and also DU’s demand their rights: they want to be heard and they want to be taken serious.
There are numerous ways and forms of participation and also the purpose varies from case to case. One could think of information sharing and consultation or focus on empowerment and joint decision-making. Saying this, it can be assumed, that participation is not only a tool and a method, but also a process and a principle. Yet there are numerous drawbacks which jeopardize the process and make it difficult to respond appropriately. DU’s are often poorly represented in service provision and decision making, although there is evidence that their knowledge and expertise is important and most useful for the development of tailored responses and policies.