NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ineffective Antidrug Program To Be Retooled

February 15, 2001

A cottage industry of sorts has grown up around and sustained the most widespread anti-drug education program in the U.S. and around the world. But that program, DARE, now admits, as critics have suggested since its founding in 1983, that there is no evidence that the program is effective, and in fact evidence that it is ineffective.

DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) has grown so rapidly since its founding 18 years ago that it is now taught in 75 percent of school districts nationwide and in 54 other countries.

Those programs were a major recipient of funds from the Education Department's $500 million annual drug education grants -- until last year, when the department turned off the spigot because, it said, the program wasn't scientifically proven.

More than 30 studies have been conducted of the DARE program. The two most frequently cited studies found that any effect the program has in deterring drug use disappears:

  • A six-year study by the University of Illinois found that the program's effects were off by senior year of high school; in fact, it detected some increased drug use by suburban high school students who had taken the program.
  • And a 10-year study by the University of Kentucky found the DARE program had no effect on students by the time they were 20 years old.

A new DARE program is being developed at the University of Akron in Ohio by Zili Sloboda, a former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; it is funded by a $13.7 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sloboda emphasizes DARE isn't the only antidrug program that doesn't work -- it's just the largest.

The focus will shift from fifth-grade students to seventh graders, and the new curriculum will be tested against other methods, including DARE.

Source: Kate Zernike, "Antidrug Program Says It Will Adopt a New Strategy," New York Times, February 15, 2001.


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