D.A.R.E. doesn't work, study finds
By Jim Avila, NBC News Correspondent
CHAPEL HILL, N.C., March 18, 1998-- The D.A.R.E. anti-drug program may be a good idea gone bad. A new study concludes that the program is not working and, in fact, may actually be hurting drug-abuse prevention efforts in some communities. The six-year study followed 1,800 Illinois kids from fifth grade through high school. FOR MORE THAN 23 million children 80 percent of America's schools the nation's antidrug mantra is I pledge to lead a drug-free life. That pledge comes from a program called D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
At McDougle Elementary School, in the Carrboro School district of Chapel Hill, N.C., D.A.R.E. is one of the favorite subjects among fifth-graders.
Though popular, Chapel Hill is thinking about dropping the class. The body of research about D.A.R.E. says that it has no long-term effect for drug-abuse prevention, said Susan Spalt, the health director for the Carrboro School District.In the most comprehensive study yet on D.A.R.E., researchers followed 1,800 students using techniques endorsed by D.A.R.E. itself. Its author concluded that D.A.R.E. is a a waste of money $220 million in tax money and donations last year alone with no beneficial effect on drug use.
It hurts me to sit here and tell you that D.A.R.E. does not work, said Dennis Rosenbaum, the author and head of the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Illinois. But it's time for us to go back to the drawing board and figure out how it can be improved or what better ways we can spend our money on drug education in this country.
Rosenbaum's six-year study finds that kids in the D.A.R.E. program used the same amount of drugs as others. Perhaps the researchers most surprising conclusion: D.A.R.E. actually appears to have an adverse÷ effect on drug activity in suburban communities.
Kids in the suburbs who were exposed to the D.A.R.E. program, who participated in D.A.R.E., actually had significantly higher levels of drug use than suburban kids who did not get the D.A.R.E. program, said Rosenbaum. This was very disturbing to us.
It's a mystery the researchers say requires further study.
Bill Alden, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement agent and spokesman for D.A.R.E., calls the study outrageous.÷ NBC News provided him with a copy and asked him about its findings.
I don t have an answer,÷ he said.
For its part, D.A.R.E. embraces one study from Ohio State University that says the program does work, if students are given additional anti-drug classes through high school. But an overwhelming majority of students do not take such classes and a dozen other studies have flatly concluded that D.A.R.E. does not deliver on its promise to teach kids to resist drugs.
D.A.R.E. officials are pushing to add more programs in junior high and high schools.
It's not that D.A.R.E. doesn't work, said Bill Alden, deputy director of D.A.R.E. America. D.A.R.E. does work. But it dissipates. It erodes. What has to happen ... there has to be more, not less.
Alden said D.A.R.E. is a popular program. We've got thousands and thousands of principals, he said. Millions of parents say, D.A.R.E. made a difference in my child's life.
But the two key federal agencies evaluating drug abuse programs do not recommend D.A.R.E. on their lists of acceptable programs, leaving school districts like Chapel Hill with a difficult choice.