Drug Abuse Resistance Education

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D.A.R.E. logo

Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) is an education program that seeks to prevent use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior. It was founded in Los Angeles in 1983 as a joint initiative of then-LAPD chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District[1][non-primary source needed] as a demand-side drug control strategy of the American War on Drugs.

Studies have repeatedly shown that D.A.R.E. was ineffective or that its effectiveness could not be proven. D.A.R.E. America's operating revenue declined from $10 million in 2002 to $3.7 million in 2010 following the publication of government reports that uniformly discredited the effectiveness of the program.[2][better source needed] In 2001, the Surgeon General of the United States, David Satcher M.D. Ph.D., placed the D.A.R.E. program in the category of "Ineffective Primary Prevention Programs".[3]

Its American headquarters is in Inglewood, California. D.A.R.E. expanded to Great Britain in 1995. The D.A.R.E. program has received a substantial amount of criticism since its creation.

Studies on effectiveness[edit]

1992 – Indiana University[edit]

Researchers at Indiana University, commissioned by Indiana school officials in 1992, found that those who completed the D.A.R.E. program subsequently had significantly higher rates of hallucinogenic drug use than those not exposed to the program.[4]

1994 – RTI International[edit]

In 1994, three RTI International scientists evaluated eight previously-done quantitative analyses on DARE's efficacy that were found to meet their requirements for rigor.[5][6] The researchers found that DARE's long-term effect couldn't be determined, because the corresponding studies were "compromised by severe control group attrition or contamination."[6] However, the study concluded that in the short-term "DARE imparts a large amount of information, but has little or no impact on students' drug use," and that many smaller, interactive programs were more effective.[5][7]

After the 1994 Research Triangle Institute study,[8][9] an article in the Los Angeles Times stated that the "organization spent $41,000 to try to prevent widespread distribution of the RTI report and started legal action aimed at squelching the study."[10] The director of publication of 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."[11]

1995 – California Department of Education[edit]

In 1995, a report to the California Department of Education by Joel Brown Ph. D. stated that none of California's drug education programs worked, including D.A.R.E. "California's drug education programs, D.A.R.E. being the largest of them, simply doesn't work. More than 40 percent of the students told researchers they were 'not at all' influenced by drug educators or programs. Nearly 70 percent reported neutral to negative feelings about those delivering the antidrug message. While only 10 percent of elementary students responded to drug education negatively or indifferently, this figure grew to 33 percent of middle school students and topped 90 percent at the high school level." In some circles educators and administrators have admitted that DARE in fact potentially increased students exposure and knowledge of unknown drugs and controlled substances, resulting in experimentation and consumption of narcotics at a much younger age. Criticism focused on failure and misuse of tax-payer dollars, with either ineffective or negative result state-wide. [10]

1998 – National Institute of Justice[edit]

In 1998, a grant from the National Institute of Justice to the University of Maryland resulted in a report to the NIJ, which among other statements, concluded that "D.A.R.E. does not work to reduce substance use."[12] D.A.R.E. expanded and modified the social competency development area of its curriculum in response to the report. Research by Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum in 1998[13] found that D.A.R.E. graduates were more likely than others to drink alcohol, smoke tobacco and use illegal drugs. Psychologist Dr. William Colson asserted in 1998 that D.A.R.E. increased drug awareness so that "as they get a little older, they (students) become very curious about these drugs they've learned about from police officers."[14] The scientific research evidence in 1998 indicated that the officers were unsuccessful in preventing the increased awareness and curiosity from being translated into illegal use. The evidence suggested that, by exposing young impressionable children to drugs, the program was, in fact, encouraging and nurturing drug use.[15] Studies funded by the National Institute of Justice in 1998,[12][16] and the California Legislative Analyst's Office in 2000[17] also concluded that the program was ineffective.

1999 – Lynam et al.[edit]

A ten-year study was completed by the Donald R. Lynam and colleagues in 2006 involving one thousand D.A.R.E. graduates in an attempt to measure the effects of the program. After the ten-year period, no measurable effects were noted. The researchers compared levels of alcohol, cigarette, marijuana and the use of illegal substances before the D.A.R.E. program (when the students were in sixth grade) with the post D.A.R.E. levels (when they were 20 years old). Although there were some measured effects shortly after the program on the attitudes of the students towards drug use, these effects did not seem to carry on long term.[18]

2001 – Office of the Surgeon General[edit]

In 2001, the Surgeon General of the United States, David Satcher M.D. Ph.D., placed the D.A.R.E. program in the category of "Ineffective Primary Prevention Programs".[3] The U.S. General Accounting Office concluded in 2003 that the program was sometimes counterproductive in some populations, with those who graduated from D.A.R.E. later having higher than average rates of drug use (a boomerang effect).

2007 – Perspectives on Psychological Science[edit]

In March 2007, the D.A.R.E. program was placed on a list of treatments that have the potential to cause harm in clients in the APS journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science.[19]

2008 – Harvard[edit]

Carol Weiss, Erin Murphy-Graham, Anthony Petrosino, and Allison G. Gandhi, "The Fairy Godmother—and Her Warts: Making the Dream of Evidence-Based Policy Come True," American Journal of Evaluation, Vol. 29 No.1, 29–47(2008) Evaluators sometimes wish for a Fairy Godmother who would make decision makers pay attention to evaluation findings when choosing programs to implement. The U.S. Department of Education came close to creating such a Fairy Godmother when it required school districts to choose drug abuse prevention programs only if their effectiveness was supported by "scientific" evidence. The experience showed advantages of such a procedure (e.g., reduction in support for D.A.R.E., which evaluation had found wanting) but also shortcomings (limited and in some cases questionable evaluation evidence in support of other programs). Federal procedures for identifying successful programs appeared biased. In addition, the Fairy Godmother discounted the professional judgment of local educators and did little to improve the fit of programs to local conditions. Nevertheless, giving evaluation more clout is a worthwhile way to increase the rationality of decision making. The authors recommend research on procedures used by other agencies to achieve similar aims.

2009 – Texas A&M[edit]

"The Social Construction of 'Evidence-Based' Drug Prevention Programs: A Reanalysis of Data from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Program," Evaluation Review, Vol. 33, No.4, 394–414 (2009). Studies by Dave Gorman and Carol Weiss argue that the D.A.R.E. program has been held to a higher standard than other youth drug prevention programs. Gorman writes, "what differentiates D.A.R.E. from many of the programs on evidence-based lists might not be the actual intervention but rather the manner in which data analysis is conducted, reported, and interpreted." Dennis M. Gorman and J. Charles Huber, Jr.

The U.S. Department of Education prohibits any of its funding to be used to support drug prevention programs that have not been able to demonstrate their effectiveness.[20] Accordingly, D.A.R.E. America, in 2004, instituted a major revision of its curriculum which is currently being evaluated for possible effectiveness in reducing drug use.[21]

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) identified alternative start-up regional programs, none of which have longevity nor have they been subjected to intense scrutiny.[22]


Police cruiser painted in D.A.R.E. colors

The D.A.R.E. program is consistent with the "zero-tolerance orthodoxy of current U.S. drug control policy." According to researcher Dr. D. M. Gorman of the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies, it supports the ideology and the "prevailing wisdom that exists among policy makers and politicians."[23] When the LA Unified School District announced they were ceasing the use of zero tolerance policies over concerns at disproportionate use against racial minorities,[24][25] California DARE Coordinator Steve Abercrombie expressed displeasure, saying "I'm surprised they don't hand [cannabis] out when they hand out their workbooks."[26]

It also claims to meet the needs of stake holders such as school districts,[27] parents, and law enforcement agencies. "D.A.R.E. America also has been very successful in marketing its program to the news media through a carefully orchestrated public relations campaign that highlights its popularity while downplaying criticism."[28]

Psychologists at the University of Kentucky concluded that "continued enthusiasm [for D.A.R.E.] shows Americans' stubborn resistance to apply science to drug policy."[29]

Marsha Rosenbaum, who headed the West Coast office of the Lindesmith Center, a drug policy reform organization, provided an opinion for a 1999 Village Voice article, "In D.A.R.E.'s worldview, Marlboro Light cigarettes, Bacardi rum, and a drag from a joint are all equally dangerous. For that matter, so is snorting a few lines of cocaine." D.A.R.E. "isn't really education. It's indoctrination."[30] The article also stated, "Part of what makes D.A.R.E. so popular is that participants get lots of freebies. There are fluorescent yellow pens with the D.A.R.E. logo, tiny D.A.R.E. dolls, bumper stickers, graduation certificates, D.A.R.E. banners for school auditoriums, D.A.R.E. rulers, pennants, D.A.R.E. coloring books, and T-shirts for all D.A.R.E. graduates."[30]

D.A.R.E. has failed to fact check some articles on their website, promoting one news piece that was satire, titled "Edible Marijuana Candies Kill 9 in Colorado, 12 at Coachella."[31][32]

Use of children as informants[edit]

"Children are asked to submit to D.A.R.E. police officers sensitive written questionnaires that can easily refer to the kids' homes" and that "a D.A.R.E. lesson called 'The Three R's: Recognize, Resist, Report' … encourages children to tell friends, teachers or police if they find drugs at home."[33]

In addition, "D.A.R.E. officers are encouraged to put a 'D.A.R.E. Box' in every classroom, into which students may drop 'drug information' or questions under the pretense of anonymity. Officers are instructed that if a student 'makes a disclosure related to drug use,' the officer should report the information to further authorities, both school and police. This apparently applies whether the 'drug use' was legal or illegal, harmless or harmful. In a number of communities around the country, students have been enlisted by the D.A.R.E. officer as informants against their parents."[34]

"In the official D.A.R.E. Implementation Guide, police officers are advised to be alert for signs of children who have relatives who use drugs. D.A.R.E. officers are first and foremost police officers and thus are duty-bound to follow up leads that might come to their attention through inadvertent or indiscreet comments by young children."[35]

As a result, children sometimes confide the names of people they suspect are illegally using drugs. In October 2010, an elementary school student in North Carolina brought cannabis to school to turn his parents in.[36]

Responses to criticism[edit]

Motivation of the critics[edit]

D.A.R.E. America has generally dismissed many criticisms and independent studies of its program, labeling them false, misleading, or biased. "D.A.R.E. has long dismissed criticism of its approach as flawed or the work of groups that favor decriminalization of drug use," according to the New York Times in 2001.[37] In a press release titled "Pro-drug Groups Behind Attack on Prevention Programs; D.A.R.E. Seen as Target as Mayors' Conference Called to Combat Legalization Threat," D.A.R.E. asserted that pro-drug legalization individuals and groups were behind criticisms of the program, which were portrayed as based on "vested interests" and "to support various individual personal agendas at the expense of our children."[11]

D.A.R.E. has attacked critics for allegedly being motivated by their financial self-interest in programs that compete with D.A.R.E. It has charged that "they are setting out to find ways to attack our programs and are misusing science to do it. The bottom line is that they don't want police officers to do the work because they want it for themselves."[38] Critics have also been dismissed as being jealous of D.A.R.E.'s success.[39]

Rebuttal of statistics[edit]

Ronald J. Brogan, New York City's D.A.R.E. fundraiser, and spokesperson said in 1999 that "If you take German for 17 weeks, you're not going to speak German. The critics say the effect dissipates over the years. No shit, Sherlock."[30] The article in which he was quoted observed that "DARE officials say the solution to this problem is not less DARE but more of it, and they urge cities to teach DARE in middle and high school."[39]

One leader explained that "I don't have any statistics for you. Our strongest numbers are the numbers that don't show up."[40] The 1998 University of Maryland report presented to the U.S. National Institute of Justice stated, "Officials of D.A.R.E. America are often quoted as saying that the strong public support for the program is a better indicator of its utility than scientific studies."[12]

"New" curriculum[edit]

In 2009, D.A.R.E. adopted the "keepin' it REAL" curriculum.[41][42][43][44] Rather than solely focusing on the perils of alcohol and other drugs, keepin' it REAL utilizes socio-emotional learning theory and a life skills approach to conceptualize substance use resistance as a situated, contextualized process and emphasizes communication competence as central to effective resistance strategies.[43] keepin' it REAL uses a culturally grounded approach that acknowledges the importance of cultural differences and similarities in the effectiveness of communication strategies and norms surrounding substance use. The program was developed by Penn State researchers, who evaluated its effectiveness, though critics contend the program does not implement a long-term evaluation system.[41] In 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ranked its "readiness for dissemination" at 1.5 out of 4.[41] Two field randomized controlled trials showed the effectiveness of the multicultural keepin' it REAL for reducing substance use across grade levels and ethnic/racial groups, which highlights the importance of grounding substance use prevention programs in their audiences' cultural attitudes, values, norms, and beliefs.[44][45] The second study "evaluated onset of drug use across and within ethnic groups and the ideal times to intervene" finding "a double dose of intervention in elementary and middle school was no more effective than middle school intervention alone."[45]

Following the passing of Washington Initiative 502 that legalized cannabis consumption in Washington state, the D.A.R.E. program was changed in the state to remove cannabis messages from their year 5 curriculum, arguing "research has found that teaching children about drugs with which they have never heard of or have no real life understanding may stimulate their interest or curiosity about the substance."[2]


  1. ^ http://www.dare.com/home/about_dare.asp Archived 2010-07-24 at the Wayback Machine, the official website of the D.A.R.E. program.
  2. ^ a b Mike, Riggs (3 Dec 2012). "D.A.R.E., America's Most Famous Anti-Drug Program, Will No Longer Talk to 10- and 11-Year-Old Children About Marijuana". Reason.com Hit and Run blog.
  3. ^ a b Reuters (18 January 2001). "Youth Violence Epidemic Not Over, Surgeon General Warns". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-07-29 – via NYTimes.com.
  4. ^ Evans, Alice and Kris Bosworth – Building effective drug education programs.}}Phi Delta Kappa International Research Bulletin No 19, December, 1887.
  5. ^ a b Marlow, Kristina; Rhodes, Steve (November 6, 1994). "Study: DARE teaches kids about drugs but doesn't prevent use". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Ennett, Susan; Tobler, Nancy; Ringwalt, Christopher; Flewelling, Robert (September 1994). "How effective is drug abuse resistance education? A meta-analysis of project DARE outcome evaluations". American Journal of Public Health. 84 (9): 1394–401. doi:10.2105/ajph.84.9.1394. PMC 1615171. PMID 8092361.
  7. ^ Brunner, Jim (October 3, 1996). "How DARE they?". Associated Press. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  8. ^ Jeremy Travis, director of the National Institute of Justice – The D.A.R.E. Program: A Review of Prevalence, User Satisfaction, and Effectiveness. October 1994 (PDF document) Quote:"While not conclusive, the findings suggest that D.A.R.E. may benefit from using more interactive strategies and emphasizing social and general competencies. A revised D.A.R.E. curriculum that includes more participatory learning was piloted in 1993 and is being launched nationwide this fall."
  9. ^ Christopher L. Ringwalt, Jody M. Greene, Susan T. Ennett, Ronaldo Iachan, Richard R. Clayton, Carl G. Leukefeld. Past and Future Directions of the D.A.R.E. Program: An Evaluation Review. Research Triangle Institute. September 1994. Supported under Award # 91-DD-CX-K053 from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
  10. ^ a b Denise Hamilton – Hamilton, Denise. The Truth About D.A.R.E.; The big-bucks antidrug program for kids doesn't work Archived December 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine – Los Angeles New Times, March 20, 1997
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  12. ^ a b c Lawrence W. Sherman, Denise Gottfredson, Doris MacKenzie, John Eck, Peter Reuter, and Shawn Bushway – Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising. Report for the National Institute of Justice. Chapter 5. School-based Crime Prevention 1998. Quote: In summary, using the criteria adopted for this report, D.A.R.E. does not work to reduce substance use. The programs (sic) content, teaching methods, and use of uniformed police officers rather than teachers might each explain its weak evaluations. No scientific evidence suggests that the D.A.R.E. core curriculum, as originally designed or revised in 1993, will reduce substance use in the absence of continued instruction more focused on social competency development. Any consideration of the D.A.R.E.'s potential as a drug prevention strategy should place D.A.R.E. in the context of instructional strategies in general. No instructional program is likely to have a dramatic effect on substance use. Estimates of the effect sizes of even the strongest of these programs are typically in the mid- to high-teens. D.A.R.E.'s meager effects place it at the bottom of the distribution of effect sizes, but none of the effects are large enough to justify their use as the centerpiece of a drug prevention strategy. Rather, such programs should be embedded within more comprehensive programs using the additional strategies identified elsewhere in this chapter.
  13. ^ Rosenbaum, Dennis P; Hanson, Gordon S (1998). "Assessing the effects of school-based drug education: A six-year multilevel analysis of project D.A.R.E." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 35 (4): 381–412. doi:10.1177/0022427898035004002.
  14. ^ Laugesen, W. The dire consequences of D.A.R.E.. Boulder Weekly, December 4, 1998
  15. ^ Dennis P. Rosenbaum, Ph.D. Professor and Head and Gordon S. Hanson, Ph.D. Research Associate Department of Criminal Justice and Center for Research in Law and Justice University of Illinois at Chicago – Assessing the effects of School-based Drug Education: A Six-year Multi-Level Analysis of Project D.A.R.E. by April 6, 1998. Media Awareness Project (MAP) Inc. d/b/a DrugSense
  16. ^ National Institute of Justice. Research in Brief, July, 1998. Summary of its Report to Congress, Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising. (PDF document)
  17. ^ [1]California Legislative Analyst's Office Analysis of the 2000–2001 Budget Bill. no date
  18. ^ Donald R. Lynam, Richard Milich, Rick Zimmerman, Scott P. Novak, T. K. Logan, Catherine Martin, Carl Leukefeld, and Richard Clayton. "Project DARE: No Effects at 10-Year Follow-Up", Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 67, no. 4.
  19. ^ Lilienfeld, S. O. (2007). Psychological treatments that cause harm. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 53–70.
  20. ^ Edition, Renee Moilanen from the January 2004 issue-view article in the Digital (1 January 2004). "Just Say No Again". Reason.com.
  21. ^ New D.A.R.E. Program Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ SAMSHA Model Programs Archived September 17, 2007, at the Wayback Machine – Effective Substance Abuse and Mental Health Programs for Every community. December 2007
  23. ^ Gorman, D. M. Irrelevance of evidence in the development of school-based drug prevention policy. Evaluation Review, 1998, 22(1), 118–146.
  24. ^ Watanabe, Teresa (14 May 2013). "L.A. Unified bans suspension for 'willful defiance'". Los Angeles Times.
  25. ^ Carly Berwick (17 May 2015). "Zeroing out Zero Tolerance". The Atlantic.
  26. ^ Amanda Lewis (27 Aug 2014). "DARE IS NOT COOL WITH WEED DECRIMINALIZATION IN L.A. SCHOOLS". LA Weekly.
  27. ^ Retsinas, J. Decision to cut off U.S. aid to D.A.R.E. Hailed. Providence Business News, 2001, 15(47), 5B.
  28. ^ Hamilton, Denise. The Truth About D.A.R.E.; The big-bucks antidrug program for kids doesn't work. Los Angeles New Times, March 20, 1997 Archived December 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Barry, Ellen. The study adds to doubts on D.A.R.E. program. Boston Globe, 8/2/99, p. A01
  30. ^ a b c Gonnerman, Jennifer – Truth or D.A.R.E.: The Dubious Drug-Education Program Takes New York. Village Voice, April 7, 1999.
  31. ^ "Edible Marijuana Candies Kill 9 in Colorado, 12 at Coachella - D.A.R.E. America". 2015-05-04. Archived from the original on 2015-05-04.
  32. ^ Christopher Ingraham (4 May 2015). "D.A.R.E. gets duped by anti-pot satire". Washington Post.
  33. ^ Miller, Joel. Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America. NY: Nelson Thomas, 2004
  34. ^ "section six: a different look at d.a.r.e. (DRCNet)". www.drcnet.org.
  35. ^ "The Future of Freedom Foundation: Freedom Daily". 8 February 2002. Archived from the original on 8 February 2002.
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  38. ^ Miller, David. D.A.R.E. Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/19/01
  39. ^ a b Cauchon, Dennis. D.A.R.E. doesn't work: Studies find drug program not effective. USA Today, October 11, 1993.
  40. ^ Edition, Jacob Sullum from the January 2001 issue-view article in the Digital (1 January 2001). "DARE Aware". Reason.com.
  41. ^ a b c Theodore Caputi, W'17 (1 Dec 2013). "'KEEPIN' IT REAL': THE COSTS OF A DRUG PREVENTION PROGRAM". INSIDE PENN WHARTON PPI. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
  42. ^ Hecht, Michael; Colby, Margaret; Miller-Day, Michelle (2010). "The dissemination of keepin' it REAL through D.A.R.E. America: A lesson in disseminating health messages". Health Communication. 25 (6–7): 6–7. doi:10.1080/10410236.2010.496826. PMID 20845153.
  43. ^ a b Frey, Lawrence (2009). Routledge handbook of applied communication. Routledge. ISBN 978-0805849837.
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  45. ^ a b Marsiglia, Flavio; Kulis, Stephen; Yabiku, Scott; Nieri, Tanya; Coleman, Elizabeth (March 2011). "When to intervene: Elementary school, middle school or both? Effects of keepin' it REAL on substance use trajectories of Mexican heritage youth". Prevention Science. 12 (1): 48–62. doi:10.1007/s11121-010-0189-y. PMC 3042028. PMID 21128119.

External links[edit]