In the mid-1980s when the crack epidemic was in full swing, there were a number of public programs and policies put into place that promised to curb drug trafficking and thus addiction. Many of these policies centered around a mentality of abstinence and zero tolerance, such as mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, as well as “educational” programs like “Just Say No” or “DARE.”
Nearly 40 years later, it is clear that the establishment’s “War on Drugs” has done nothing to prevent drug addiction, and has instead created a long list of other problems, like violent criminal black markets where tainted drugs are the norm. The generation that grew up on DARE and Just Say No is now experiencing an unprecedented rate of heroin addiction with an overwhelming number of overdoses.
If the evidence in front of your eyes is not enough to convince you, consider the fact that every single study done on the infamous DARE program showed that it was ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst. As a result, the organization has seen their revenue dwindle over the years, falling from $10 million in 2002 to $3.7 million in 2010.
DARE was founded in Los Angeles in 1983 as a joint initiative of then-LAPD chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District, and quickly infected 75 percent of the school districts in the US, and eventually expanding out to 43 different countries.
“We’re going to condemn those people who casually use drugs in this nation,” Gates once said of the program.
The first study testing the effectiveness of the DARE program was conducted at Indiana University in 1992. In the study, researchers found that students who went through the program were statistically more likely to take hallucinogenic drugs.
Two years later, in 1994, a study by three RTI International scientists determined that the program had little or no impact on students’ drug use.” According to the Los Angeles Times, DARE America executive director Glenn Levant admitted that his organization spent $41,000 to try to prevent widespread distribution of the RTI study as it was being published, and even attempted legal action to prevent its release.
After the incident, the director of publication for the American Journal of Public Health told USA Today that “D.A.R.E. has tried to interfere with the publication of this. They tried to intimidate us.”
The following year, in 1995, a report to the California Department of Education by Joel Brown Ph.D. showed how an overwhelming number of students had negative feelings about the program and did not trust the adults involved either.
Eventually, in 1998, the National Institute of Justice got involved with their own report and concluded that DARE programs actually had the opposite of their intended effect, and made children more interested in drugs.
A few years later, the program suffered a crucial blow when the Surgeon General of the United States, David Satcher M.D. Ph.D., placed the DARE program in the category of “Ineffective Primary Prevention Programs,” in 2001. Then, in 2007, the APS journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science listed the program as potentially harmful.
In the years since many other studies have followed and all have had the same results: the DARE curriculum of fear and abstinence has done more harm than good. Instead, many experts are beginning to suggest that harm reduction is the best theme for drug education.
Examples of harm reduction tactics would be needle exchange programs, drug testing kits at raves, or supervised safe injection sites—just to name a few. Teaching condom use for sexual education, instead of abstinence is another example of how harm prevention is applied to other social issues.
Insanely enough, despite its horrific track record, DARE is still a major force in public school drug programs today, and it is still peddling much of the same propaganda. However, its influence has been dwindling, and it has been forced to make some changes to keep up with the times.
Sadly, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last year that he would like the current administration to breathe new life into the dying the program.
“I believe that DARE was instrumental to our success by educating children on the dangers of drug use. I firmly believe that you have saved lives. And I want to say thank you for that. Whenever I ask adults around age 30 about prevention, they always mention the DARE program. Your efforts work. Lives and futures are saved. We know it worked before and we can make it work again,” Sessions told an audience at the Drug Abuse Resistance Education International Training Conference in Texas last summer.