Letter to the Edit0r

Replace DARE With Programs That Really Work

by Rocky Anderson

dare-sorry-admission.jpgIn the article entitled “DARE’s Dismal Future,” the question is asked whether it is “a good idea” to cut “the popular drug education program.” (The Event, June 29, 2000.) In that article, Tibby Milne, Executive Director of the Utah Council for Crime Prevention, touts DARE, stating, “Anytime we can teach our youth to have respect for authority, it’s very important.”

What is even more important is that those in authority honestly face the facts and do more than simply try to make people feel good about costly, ineffective government programs. If, for instance, a United States senator, a mayor, a council member, a state legislator, a school administrator or an “authority” with the Utah Council for Crime Prevention purports to be doing something to cut drug abuse, he or she should be accountable for what is done. Such “authorities” should endeavor to do not just what is politically advantageous, but they should commit to the implementation of those programs that have been proven to be most effective. I certainly do not apologize for advocating the substitution of effective drug-prevention programs for DARE – and call upon all other “authorities” to conduct their own thorough analysis and insist upon the implementation of programs that will be effective in helping us accomplish our drug-prevention objectives.

The Event article indicates that my interest in replacing DARE with effective programs is driven by the current City’s budget and the need to put more police officers on the street. That is simply untrue – although cost-savings and more officers on the street will be a result of the termination of the DARE program. Almost three years ago, long before I was Salt Lake City Mayor, I argued vigorously for the replacement of DARE with programs that really work. The following are excerpts from a column authored by me, published in the October 27, 1997 issue of The Enterprise:

Some anti-drug and anti-alcohol programs have been proven to be tremendously effective in reducing drug and alcohol abuse among our youth. Other programs are a waste of time and money – and, what’s worse, they result in the waste of precious opportunities because they take the place of other, efficacious programs. So, why do our federal, state and local governments continue to fritter away hundreds of millions of dollars on a program that is not only ineffective, but in some respects counterproductive, while depriving our children of good, constructive programs that really work?

Notwithstanding all the DARE bumper stickers and tee-shirts, which reflect the vast public support for drug-abuse prevention, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, utilized in 70% of the nation’s school districts, presented to more than 33 million school children throughout the country, and eating up approximately $600 million . . . each year, is an unmitigated disaster.

DARE is utilized in 441 Utah public schools and was presented to more than 232,000 Utah children last year, but its ineffectiveness has been repeatedly demonstrated.

At the very least, before taxpayers’ money is divvied up, a program seeking the funds should prove its worth. With DARE, the money, and crucial opportunities, are simply blown. The bumper stickers and tee-shirts, which cement a strong emotional commitment to this failed program, only make us feel like we are accomplishing something.

dare-2.jpgMy views about the need for effective drug-prevention programs have hardly been a secret, particularly after I raised the issue throughout my mayoral campaign. Those views were developed after reading numerous books and articles on the subject of drug-prevention. That research reflected the consensus outside of the DARE community: DARE does not prevent, and may actually lead to, increased drug abuse.

  • The Department of Justice commissioned The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) to evaluate DARE. Its findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1994, reflect that DARE students use more marijuana than non-DARE students. The RTI also concluded that DARE’s core-curriculum effect on the use of other drugs, except tobacco, is not statistically significant. According to the RTI, DARE might very well be taking the place of other, more beneficial, drug-prevention programs that adolescents otherwise could be receiving.
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a study involving 31 schools found “no statistically significant differences between experimental groups [participating in DARE] and control groups in the percentage of new users of . . . cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, alcohol, marijuana.”
  • In the longest follow-up study conducted regarding the effectiveness of DARE, researchers found that, after ten years, DARE did not make any positive difference. The researchers stated: “The widespread popularity of DARE is especially noteworthy, given the lack of evidence for its efficacy. Although few long-term studies have been conducted, the preponderance of evidence suggests that DARE has no long-term effect on drug use.” (Lynam, D., “Project DARE: No Effects at 10-Year Follow-Up,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (1999, Vol. 26, No. 4).)

Compare those research results with the following:

  • Life Skills Training – “LST has been rigorously evaluated. . . . Four-year follow-up studies report that rates of smoking and marijuana use are one-half to three-quarters lower among students who have participated in LST than among those who have not.” (Mathea Falco, The Making of a Drug-Free America – Programs That Work (Times Books 1992).)
  • Students Taught Awareness and Resistance – “Star is one of the most effective prevention programs in the country. . . . Five-year follow-up studies involving 5,500 students report that rates of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol use among children who had participated in STAR were 20 to 40 percent lower than among those who had not. . . . By ninth and tenth grade, STAR graduates used cocaine at half the rate of other students.” (Id.)
  • Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids – ATLAS is a drug prevention and health promotion program targeting high-school athletes. “ATLAS trained youth had a 50-percent reduction in new use of anabolic steroids; lower use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and sport supplements; and reduced drinking and driving occurrences 1 year after the intervention.” (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention’s Model Programs, www.samhas.gov/csap/modelprograms/atlasidlink.htm)

dare2question.jpgWe all share a common goal: Cut drug abuse among our youth. A means of helping to accomplish that goal is to implement in our schools drug-prevention programs that actually work. Those who fail to insist on effective drug-prevention programs in our schools are betraying our youth and our community. And those who are unfamiliar with the research and insist on retaining DARE in our schools simply because it is a “popular” program are not part of the drug-abuse solution; they are part of the problem.