section five

does D.A.R.E work?


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If the measure for success of D.A.R.E. is popularity, then yes: D.A.R.E. has been enormously effective in attracting widespread popular and financial support, and has achieved a level of visibility unparalleled by any other single drug education program. D.A.R.E. is even developing a strong presence on the Internet, as a number of individual D.A.R.E. officers have put up web pages promoting their local programs. A D.A.R.E. officer in Ohio maintains a centralized directory of D.A.R.E. pages.

If the measure for success of D.A.R.E. is whether it is effective in reducing drug use (let alone abuse) among young people, the evaluations uniformly conclude no, D.A.R.E. is no more effective than any other drug education program, nor more effective than no program at all. Although many evaluations have been done, no scientific study has discovered any statistically significant difference in drug-usage rates between students who had taken D.A.R.E. and those who had not.

The most exhaustive and authoritative study to date on the effectiveness of D.A.R.E. was done by the Research Triangle Institute, North Carolina, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice, entitled "Past and Future Directions of the D.A.R.E. Program, September, 1994."(338k) It was first reported in the national press by USA Today. The reported concluded:

"The D.A.R.E. program's limited effect on adolesent drug use contrasts with the program's popularity and prevalence. An important implication is that D.A.R.E. could be taking the place of other, more beneficial drug education programs that kids could be receiving."

For a summary of the report, see "How Effective is D.A.R.E.?," American Journal of Public Health, September 1994, p. 1399.

A government-sponsored study of the effectiveness of the D.A.R.E. program in Charleston County, South Carolina (88k), found

Significant differences ... in the predicted direction for alcohol use in the last year, belief in prosocial norms, association with drug using peers, positive peer association, attitudes against substance use, and assertiveness. No differences were found on cigarette, tobacco, or marijuana use in the last year, frequency of any drug use in the past month, attitudes about police, coping strategies, attachment and commitment to school, rebellious behavior, and self-esteem.

An excellent scholarly article on D.A.R.E. is "Truth and D.A.R.E.: Tracking Drug Education to Graduation and as Symbolic Politics," by E. Wysong and R. Aniskiewicz (Indiana University), D. Wright (Wichita State University), Social Problems Vol. 41 No. 3, August, 1994. Below are excerpts from this article:

  • As a result of attempting to prevent all drug experimentation and/or use, D.A.R.E.'s objectives are not only unrealistic but also possible counter-productive because they are obviously unattainable.
  • For example, some studies have shown that adolescents who experimented with illicit drugs (especially marijuana) are better adjusted than either abstainers or frequent users and were more socially skilled with higher levels of self esteem than abstainers.
  • The finding of significantly high hallucinogen use among the D.A.R.E. group raises the possibility that drug education programs may increase student curiosity about drugs and lead to earlier and greater drug experimentation.
  • [On comparison of D.A.R.E. vs. Non-D.A.R.E. students:] There was a sharp decline in positive attitudes toward police, and a growing unwillingness to condemn peer's consumption of alcohol.
  • D.A.R.E. was judged by all group members as having no lasting influence on student's drug-related attitudes or behaviors.
  • Imposing D.A.R.E. upon divided student audiences produces outcomes likely to diminish the program's effectiveness, especially among resistant students. Other studies confirm this prospect and demonstrate that when "socially-deviant youths are required to participate in the school setting in peer-led denunciation of activities they value, they are more likely to become alienated than converted."
  • After tracking D.A.R.E. for five years, our quantitative and qualitative data both point in the direction of no long-term effects for the program in preventing or reducing adolescent drug use.
See Bibliography for additional material


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what's wrong with D.A.R.E.?


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