The Center for Educational Research and Development

Anti Drug Programs Criticized

By Erin N. Texeira, Staff Writer, L.A. Times, October 25, 1995

School-based anti-drug programs such as DARE and Red Ribbon Week are largely ineffective in preventing students from using alcohol, drugs and tobacco, according to a comprehensive study comissioned by the California State Department of Education. The study, conducted by a coalition of researchers and professors, found that programs that rely on lectures and assemblies to promote the evils of drugs and alcohol lack credibility with the states teen-ager, and fail to reach the students most at risk of using drugs. But the Department of Education has no plans to publish the study's report and disputes its findings. "Our problems with this study had to do with what we thought was faulty methodology" said Greg Wolf, consultant for the department. Wolf, who was not directly involved in the funding or implementation of the study said he could not specify which aspects of the study the department questions. Other officials could not be reached for comment.

The researchers defended the study and said they don't understand why the state has not published it. In the study, more than 40% of students polled in a random sample told researchers their decision whether or not to use intoxicants was "influenced not at all" by programs teaching drugs' harmful effects and strategies for preventing use. DARE-Drug Abuse Resistance Education-is the nationwide school-based program that was started by the Los Angeles Police DeparLment it exposes children beginning in the fifth grade to curriculum that focuses on the problems created by drug use and tries to te! ach them that drug use Is not universal. There is no way to truly gauge the effectiveness of DARE." said Sgt. George Villalobos an administrative supervisor for the acclaimed anti-drug program. But we know it's successful because of the people we talk to all the time. I'd like to know what those who conducted the study recommend in place of this.

The researchers, Joel Brown of Berkeley-based Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Marianne D'Emidio-Caston of UC Santa Barbara and Jordan Horowitz of Southwest Regional Laboratory in Los Alamitos, spent more than three years conducting research for the study and reported their findings at a drug abuse convention in Santa Monica on Friday. The 5.000-student, 240-school study concluded that as students age they become progressively more convinced that drug-prevention programs are ineffective. While just 10% of elementary school students had a negative or neutral attitude toward drug-prevention programs, that number jumped to 90% among high school students, the study found. Seven in 20 students felt a negative or neutral attitude toward their drug-prevention educators and three In 10 dislIked their drug-prevention counselors "a little" or "a lot." One elementary school student quoted in the study's draft report said: "Oh, they lie to you so that you won't do drugs. They think you're dumb".A high school student said, "They are not in this for helping you, they are in for setting rid of the bad kids and just having all the good kids in school."

"These programs are just not as effective as they could be,' researcher Horowitz said. "The school system may not be the best place for these programs. A growing body of research is finding that the most effective drug education programs help children deal with peer pressure to use drugs by engaging them in group discussions and role-playing, rather than by having an adult standing in front of the class exh! orting children to abstain. A study of 5,700 youths released last month by the Partnership for Drug-Free Southern California found that teen-agers consider in-school programs the top source of information about the risks of drugs. Even so, the survey found that children and teen-agers in Los Angeles County are less likely than peers nationally to believe that using drugs is harmful and are significantly more likely to experment with drugs.

Copyright L.A. Times 1998