Monday, May 15, 2006

DARE to get rid of DARE

The Los Angeles Times seems to have printed a special "Sensible Drug Policy Edition" today.

In addition to this great article on the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, the Times printed this hard-hitting exposé of DARE and other failed "Just Say No" programs.
Anti-drug overdose?
Many school prevention programs don't help, scientists say, and may even do harm.
By Marnell Jameson, Special to The Times

LIKE millions of kids across America, ninth-grader Mariana Kouloumian was taught in elementary school not to drink or use drugs — ever. To her, the message seemed clear except for one hitch: It didn't square with what she saw in the real world, or even at home.

"When I told my parents what I learned in [school], that drinking was bad, they said they knew that, but that a drink once in a while was OK," Mariana says.

Today, at 14, the Los Angeles girl dismisses much of what she learned in the drug-education program, saying that when she's older she plans to follow the more moderate example set by her mother and father.

"My parents know how much alcohol they can handle. They only drink socially — and wouldn't drink and drive." Further, she credits her parents, not school lessons, with helping her turn down tobacco, alcohol and drugs — all of which she's been offered. "I learned what I know at home," she says. To her, the anti-drug program seemed out of touch.
All of us who went through the DARE program probably had similar experiences of realizing that abstinence-only messages just don't jive with reality. Some, like Mariana, are lucky enough to have the voice of reason coming from their parents. Others, however, are not so lucky.
Most drug-prevention programs don't work because they use scare tactics, Hanson says. "They tell kids things they will later find out aren't true, like alcohol is a gateway to drugs and will seduce you into trying more dangerous substances. Also, by saying all alcohol is bad, they send kids home thinking that if their parents have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with their pizza, they are abusing drugs. If a child's father happens to tend bar, they come home and ask why he's a drug dealer. Then what happens when the child sees the off-duty DARE officer having a beer at the local bowling alley?"

[snip]

Some researchers and scientists worry about the harm some programs may be doing to kids. A 1998 Illinois study, for example, found that DARE inadvertently encouraged a few students to try drugs.

[snip]

"The harm is that kids don't need these messages yet, and by making them too simplistic, they will dismiss them when they're older and do need this message," Robertson says. She adds that these programs make kids who have never considered using drugs see themselves as potential drug users.
About two years ago, I went to the DARE National Conference to gather information about the program and to represent the DARE Generation. I spoke with countless law enforcement officers who, while genuinely concerned about drug abuse, would refuse to admit that an abstinence-only scare-tactic based program simply did nothing to prevent drug abuse. Steve West, a researcher who found the DARE program to be ineffective, says it best:
"We weren't saying the program wasn't well intentioned," says West, a professor of rehabilitation counseling. "Just that as a prevention effort, it was a huge waste of time and money. There are better programs."
What better programs, you ask? Here's one off the top of my head.

Oh, and this article appeared in the HEALTH section of the Times. Looks like people are starting to get the picture that drug abuse is a public health problem, and not a criminal justice problem.

Read the rest of the article here.

4 comments:

Jonathan Perri said...

The hypocrisy in the lessons taught by DARE are its own worst enemy. I was so proud of my shiny junior police badge when I was in the DARE program. Then as I got older I found that some police officers in my town actually smoked marijuana and used other illegal drugs. That some of them didn't actually value the constitution and that there was a difference between USE and ABUSE.
DARE has only its message and its officers to blame for its continuing failure.

Jimi D said...

The fact that a 14 year old girl is calling DARE "Out of Touch" should raise some eyebrows to what is going on. One of the sad facts about the drug war is that Student Resource Officers are teaching DARE in my urban area. They are there to show a link between the community and the police department. The fact that this link to the community is providing misinformation to developing minds is tragic.

800 pound gorilla said...

Oh what a tangled web we weave....The biggest problem with the War on Drugs is that it is based totally on deception. It makes adults believe that drugs are banned because they are dangerous. This strongly implies that there are objective standards for drugs and the effects they have on users. WRONG!

There has never been any standard for drugs. Every single standard I've read on DEA websites and seen on DEA style adds is 99% user and less than 1% on drug. DEA "studies" have nothing to do with the way scientific testing works. They are merely statistical correlations. What's worse the DEA picks and chooses which statistics to use.

Of course, I don't even mention this in my book. The bigger problem is that whenever you create a lucrative black market with prohibition you can't find any disclosure, quality control or recommended dosages. How do you test for a product when the product is so widely variable?

And then there is the even bigger problem of spoonfeeding information without giving the student any basis for comprehension. I see this not only in drug education but all over the wide spectrum of education. Whenever you spoonfeed information to kids they have to take the initiative to figure out why it works that way. If you also penalize students who don't regurgitate it verbatim and find different uses and different answers you compound ignorance. What DARE does is suggest that addiction only comes from use of "dangerous drugs" - which is a lie! That's why many see parents and coworkers using Advil and Tylenol like candy at work and overhear strategies that promote over reliance on drugs to take care of the symptoms of abusive workplace situations.

When I wrote my book I took great care to explain the basics about how all drugs work and stressed the problems of over reliance. The body does a great job of taking care of itself. If you use drugs that promotes body and spiritual atrophy that leads to long term emotional and health problems. They also need to know where to find useful information about drugs they might consider using. I sent them to pharmacies and doctors with specific questions. Kids need to learn why things work the way they do. There is no way they will be able to keep up with drug technology - unless they go into the pharmaceutical specialty.

The biggest problem one has with drug education is that one glaring problem faces any student: the government lies to them about drugs. Not only that but the government and people in authority lie to them about a wide spectrum of issues. People in authority who control lots of other peoples' money don't like it when their scams and boondoggles are exposed by the education system. Many religious conservatives react very strongly when their narrow beliefs based on a very weak and shallow self serving religious dogma are directly or indirectly challenged by educators trying to teach kids useful information. Legisliars have a lot more political power than religious conservatives.

Timothy Tipton said...

Mixed messages from the outdated War on Drugs & DARE efforts, continue to HURT American Families who are associated with Medical Marijuana Activities. Just as the television commercials have had a counter productive affect on our nation's youth, per a recent study, we need to realize the NEGATIVE affects to mmj families by stigmatizing their identification with cannabis. STATES RIGHTS for MEDICAL MARIJUANA NOW!!//Timothy(aka COmidnightrider46)
MY BLOG:
http://www.writingup.com/comidnightrider46
My Group:
http://medmarijuana.meetup.com/119/