Dealing in Drug Education?

For many years now, students across the country have been through drug resistance programs to try to restrict their prevalence in the future generations. Ever since D.A.R.E, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education was formed in 1983 as a complement to Reagan’s ‘War on Drugs’, it has been the largest drug prevention organization in the country, representing over 75% of all drug prevention programs. I, like many others in the nation, have grown to passively accept D.A.R.E as a mildly obnoxious but somewhat necessary tool to protect our populace. However, the effects of D.A.R.E are not as clear cut and helpful as we’d like to believe. D.A.R.E has proved to be a failure of a drug resistance program, promoting false senses of security, failing to reduce the usage of drugs, and in some cases, possibly increasing their consumption.

D.A.R.E’s use of fear tactics to ‘educate’ students into making responsible life choices often simply devolve into misinformation and misunderstandings. One of the most criticized policies of D.A.R.E’s education strategies is their ‘zero tolerance message’. Children are taught, through the use of striking visuals, that drugs, in general, are bad. They are told to never partake in them, or face death. But they fail to go into depth of the mechanics and nature of the drugs themselves. The average student will have seen family members or adult friends using alcohol or tobacco at least on some occasion. Upon seeing the lack of adverse side effects when their parents, for example, drink at a party, students will either form a false perception of their parents’ activities, or disregard the D.A.R.E message altogether. In addition, the existence of D.A.R.E may lull parents into a sense of false security. With D.A.R.E’s existence so prevalent, parents often times neglect to personally teach kids the essentials as well, and the students are left to a floundering, fear mongering indoctrination ring.

“‘Take Charge of Your Life’ curriculum found a 3–4% increase in alcohol and cigarette use among 11th grade students who were not using either substance by seventh grade (at the beginning of the study) compared to those who never enrolled.”

There is also a large amount of evidence that suggests that D.A.R.E does not reduce the prevalence of drugs, and is even linked to higher rates of abuse. A 2004 study discovered that the drug use habits of students enrolled in D.A.R.E are “indistinguishable” from the habits of students who are not enrolled in the program. Additional studies also discovered a 3–5% increase in suburbs for drug abuse in localities where D.A.R.E was predominant. Another peer reviewed study revealed that D.A.R.E’s “‘Take Charge of Your Life’ curriculum found a 3–4% increase in alcohol and cigarette use among 11th grade students who were not using either substance by seventh grade (at the beginning of the study) compared to those who never enrolled.” The D.A.R.E program’s methods have been proven to be ineffective and in many cases, reinforce negative behaviors. One of D.A.R.E’s long running programs, the A three decade long war on drugs and an increasing polarization on the issue has left the country clueless as to how to solve the epidemic of addiction.

Many parents are understandably concerned about the exposure their kids may have to drugs and alcohol. D.A.R.E has lulled many of us, including myself, into a false sense of security. However, D.A.R.E fails to effectively prevent drug abuse in our youth. Their use of outdated tactics only succeeds in creating an illusion of protection, when in reality does not instill in our students what they need to know to stay safe in an increasingly dangerous world. We have learned through four decades of failure that brute force is not the solution to the national drug epidemic. The failure of D.A.R.E, in tandem with concurrent forces like the war on drugs, has led to skyrocketing rates of substance abuse. In order, to help the next generation make informed decisions, we must actually inform them. If we give our children the information they need to make smarter decisions, we could do more than any amount of fear mongering could.

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