Enabling environments for drug users

This project explores how public social authorities and private organisations can contribute to a change in the lives of marginalized drug users, transforming their living conditions from risk environments into enabling environments that don’t hurt them but help them live a safer and less harmful everyday life.


The project aims to uncover which obstacles the marginalized drug users face, and what prevents them from receiving the help they need and are entitled to. The project will also contribute with new insights into the everyday life of marginalized drug users in different local communities and explore local stress factors and resources. We will also create new knowledge about how social services and initiatives influence stress factors and resources in the daily lives of drug users. The ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of social services and policies that are better suited to meet the needs and requests of the most vulnerable drug users


We lack knowledge about the everyday life of drug users when they are not inside social and health care institutions. We also lack knowledge about the ways policies and interventions influence their lives. Finally, we lack knowledge about how to develop social services that are relevant for the drug users. Practical experience as well as research show that the most marginalized drug users do not receive the help they need and are entitled to. This is sometimes due to the fact that they are not welcome in the social and health care institutions. There are several obstacles which prevent drug users from receiving the proper help. Among other things it can be that there is too great a distance between the everyday life of the drug user and the health care institutions or a lack of cooperation between authorities. The experience so far is that a close collaboration between the police, the municipality and volunteer organizations around the drug community in Vesterbro in Copenhagen has improved the lives of drug users.

The study

The target group of the research is marginalized users of opioids such as heroin and methadone as well as stimulants such as crack, cocaine and amphetamine in three neighborhoods of Copenhagen. The project consists of three parts:

  • A quantitative survey of about 200 drug users in the neighborhoods of Nordvest, Sundholm and Vesterbro in Copenhagen.
  • Field observations of drugs users and social workers in the three neighborhoods as well as follow-along studies of drug users.
  • Qualitative interviews with about 40 drug users and social workers e.g. about the everyday experiences of the drug user and their decision making about when to accept and when not to accept help.

The project runs from June 2018 to June 2021


The project is financed by Velux Fonden with 4.5 million Danish Kroner


The project is a collaboration between researchers from the Centre for Drug and Alhohol Research, The Institute of Nursing and Institute of Social Work at University College Copenhagen, Competence Center for Dual Diagnosis at the Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark, practitioners from Mændenes Hjem in Istedgade, Halmtorvet 9D, Café Klare, the drug consumption room Istedgade 17, the Psychiatric Street Workers Unit, and finally Copenhagen Police and the Municipality of Copenhagen.



Katrine Schepelern Johansen

Head of Kompetencecenter for Dobbeltdiagnoser 


+45 38 64 24 62   

Nanna Kappel

Associate professor

Københavns Professionshøjskole
+45 51 63 27 03

Kristian R. Fahnøe

Associate professor

Københavns Professionshøjskole

+45 51 63 27 28

Mette Kronbæk


Københavns Professionshøjskole

+45 22 67 50 92