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DARE: Failing American Youth And Taxpayers For Thirty Years

  1. SmokeTwibz

    If you are under 40, it is very likely that you, like 80 percent of schoolchildren in the U.S., were exposed to Drug Abuse Resistance Education, which celebrates its 30th birthday this month.

    D.A.R.E. was created by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1983, following the rise of a conservative parents movement and First Lady Nancy Reagan in need of a cause. The purpose of D.A.R.E. was to teach students about the extreme dangers of drugs by sending friendly police officers into classrooms to help kids resist the temptation to experiment; to stand up in the face of peer pressure; and to “just say no.”

    Because of its widespread use in elementary schools all across America (and in over 40 countries around the world), D.A.R.E .was evaluated extensively. The reviews consistently showed that while students enjoyed interacting with police (especially examining the sample cases of drugs used for show and tell), and may have been initially deterred, effects were short lived. In fact, by the time D.A.R.E. graduates reached their late teens and early 20s, many had forgotten what they had learned or rejected the exaggerated messages they’d heard. And by 2001, D.A.R.E. was deemed by none other than the United States Surgeon General, “an ineffective primary prevention program,” and lost 80 percent of its federal funding shortly thereafter.

    Yet D.A.R.E .has kept going — trying to keep up with the times, at least rhetorically, with its new “Keepin’ it Real” curriculum. Last fall, I read with keen interest that the program in Washington State had been notified by national D.A.R.E., its oversight agency, that the subject of marijuana would be dropped from the curriculum.

    What???? The very same D.A.R.E. program that taught my daughter that marijuana would lead to heroin addiction isn’t even mentioning pot? Had it given up its “reefer madness” campaign, perhaps in light of Washington’s Initiative 502 that legalized marijuana last November?

    I had to call and hear for myself about these big changes.

    President and CEO Frank Pegueros told me that, in fact, D.A.R.E. had changed. The didactic approach is gone, replaced by dialogue and discussion. “Just say no,” he said, “has gone by the wayside.” It sounded almost touchy feely to me.

    I was encouraged, thinking for a brief moment that the chorus of anti-D.A.R.E. critics, like me, who emphasized the importance of honest, science-based drug education, had actually been heard.

    But then I asked Mr. Pegueros about marijuana, and why it was dropped from the curriculum, and that’s when I got the real scoop.

    Actually, it was not officially dropped. Instead, not wanting to pique students’ interest, the subject of marijuana will be discussed by D.A.R.E. officers only if it is brought up by students themselves. And what will they be told? As for content, one needs only to peruse www.dare.com to see that although the packaging may have evolved, the content has remained the same: marijuana is a very dangerous drug; medical marijuana is a hoax; and big money, rather than compassion and pragmatism, is behind legalization initiatives.

    By now it is commonly known that the extreme dangers of marijuana have been exaggerated, and few users become addicted or graduate to hard drug use; roughly 70 percent of the American population supports medical marijuana; and it is public opinion that is driving initiatives and legislation to make medical marijuana available to people who need it.

    If D.A.R.E. failed to convince youth a generation ago to “just say no” because its content was unbelievable, no amount of new anti-drug rhetoric will help. Students didn’t believe what they were told 30 years ago, and they’re too smart to believe it now.

    And worse, D.A.R.E.’s recycled rhetoric will certainly fail to provide young people with useful information to help them make wise, health-driven decisions about dealing with the myriad of substances available to them today.

    So Happy 30th D.A.R.E. Now that you’re approaching middle age, how about trying “just say know” this time around?

    Marsha Rosenbaum, Ph.D

    Marsha Rosenbaum is the founder of the Safety First drug education project at the Drug Policy Alliance and author of “Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs.”

    by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director | April 18, 2013

    Author Bio

    My name is Jason Jones. I'm from Rochester, MN and I'm 35 years old. I scrap metal and work as grounds keeper at a local trailer park. In the winter, I shovel a bunch of driveways and sidewalks to make some extra money and to stay busy. In my free time, I try to find interesting articles about the war on drugs that I can post on Drugs-Forum, so that the information can reach a wider audience.


  1. WoodyCA
    I am that campaign's target audience

    ...no one was influenced by it, as far as I recall.
  2. WoodyCA
    I respectfully disagree.

    One of the problems with the DARE campaign is that it lacked credibility because it's content was fundamentally flawed. Too much of the information it spread was false and even as a 12 year old boy I knew it was false then.

    There is enough real, credible information that should be shared for true drug education. Whether this would have a deterrent effect or not I don't know but it would probably increase safety.
  3. Alien Sex Fiend
    well it was never right to peer pressure kids not to do drugs when these dare people assumed some alien friendly strangers were apparently peer pressuring to do so otherwise
  4. Walker
    The moment a child realizes you are lying to them, your credibility is worthless. There is so much they teach that is obviously untrue that anything of value that they could impart is dismissed as more lies. My daughter did like getting a free t-shirt though.
  5. Großschmackhaft
    Or rather, not influenced as intended, though i am sure there must have been a few successes as well.
  6. Diverboone
    The D A R E program has promoted the mistrust of the Government to a whole generation. Ms. Nancy Reagan follow her husbands strategy of using mislead, if not blatant lies as scare tactics, rather than educate our youth with scientifically based facts. This strategy has been the basis of drug education since the Food and Drug act of 1906. It really came to light during the Reefer Madness campaigns. The Reagan Administration took this strategy to a new level during the 80's with the media/justice system created "Crack Epidemic". That synthetic epidemic has left a whole generation of black men and women scarred for life. It's human nature to want to blame social ills upon some cause. Drugs and their (illegal) use have become the scapegoat for most all our social ills. This has led to a host of laws and policies that were not based upon sound science, but more upon moral judgements. These judgements are based upon media reports not the science behind the issue. The DARE program was just another outlet for the Government to spread it's misinformation.
  7. Diverboone
    I must say that I happy the same scare tactics that are used in drug education of our youth, are not used with sex education of our youth. The sex education classes that I attended in school were based upon harm reduction principles. Could you imagine our youth if they taught that sex turned you into green monsters or raven lunatics. Well maybe there's a little truth to the latter. I have never figured out why our educators took such a different route when drugs were the issue.
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