Pubdate: Fri, 01 Mar 2002
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Chattanooga Publishing Co
Author: Ethan Evans
Note: Currently a junior, Ethan Evans is an honors student at Red Bank High 
School. He has been a member of the staff of The Blue & White, the school's 
student newspaper for two years, serving as a graphic artist and reporter.
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)
Bookmark: (Partnership for a Drug Free America)


Guest Commentary

Editor's note: Once a month the Chattanooga Times Free Press will carry a 
Perspective article written by a young reader. Call (423) 757-6329 or 
e-mail  to discuss an article for publication.

As television programming breaks for commercial advertising, the 
all-too-familiar public service announcement finds its way onto the screen: 
Teen-agers take an intermission from their basketball game to smoke 
marijuana on a park court; adolescents meet in an open garage to get high.

The scenarios are countless, absurd and repetitively aired nationwide. Most 
of today's youth know the ads by heart because they've ridiculed them so 
often. Who is responsible for these drug education interruptions, and why 
are they broadcast so many times? The answer can be found in early 
childhood memories.

Every student remembers his or her elementary school enrollment in the Drug 
Abuse Resistance Education program -- or DARE -- a zero-tolerance anti-drug 
effort taught in 80 percent of school districts across the country. At the 
birth of this nationwide attack on drug use, teachers and parents exalted 
the movement. The lessons on abstinence, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic 
violence and the like seemed a magnificent way to prevent children from 
leading corrupt and desperate lives. But a decade later, the National 
Academy of Sciences and the surgeon general issued reports documenting the 
ineffectiveness and failure of the DARE program because of its simplistic 
message and tendency to exaggerate the prevalence of drug use. "Just Say 
No," it seems, turned out to be, "Just Don't Care."

With the only nationally recognized weapon against teen-age drug use 
malfunctioning in battle, many feared for the youth who are the future of 
this country. Parents agonized over the faltering program they had placed 
so much faith in. Luckily, a new program swept across America to save them 
from having to take the responsibility of educating their children on their 

In January 1998, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began the 
National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. The new three-phase undertaking 
aimed to reduce drug use through coordinated efforts to educate and enable 
America's youth to reject illegal drugs -- specifically, marijuana and 
inhalants. It is this campaign that produces the Partnership for a 
Drug-Free America public service announcements, such as the ones described 

The campaign is anchored by a paid advertising effort geared toward 
students and their parents. It is the largest comprehensive anti-drug media 
campaign ever assumed by the federal government. Currently in its third 
phase, the project comprises more than 80 messages in a variety of media 
(television, radio, Internet, etc.) and 11 in different languages. Since 
1998, the ads have reached 90 percent of minors at least seven times a 
week. Public service announcements produced by the National Youth Anti-Drug 
Campaign were aired almost 16,000 times on national television by December 
2000. In local broadcasts, the anti-drug ads dominated the airwaves and 
television screen, appearing more than 445,000 times. An astonishing 821 
million Internet matches were acquired all before 2001.

To date, more than 500 anti-drug ads have been constructed. By the end of 
1998, the total value of broadcast time topped $3 billion. A total of $380 
million has been appropriated by Congress to fund the efforts of the 
Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Despite the failure of D.A.R.E., parents could once again rest easily as 
long as their children were watching television. They are bound to have the 
ads shoved down their throats if they watch any large networks such as NBC, 
ABC, FOX or ESPN. But on the other hand, isn't it possible that the 
Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media 
Campaign will crumble just as the unsinkable titanic called D.A.R.E.?

Not only is it possible, but it is inevitable. These ineffective and 
excessively funded programs topple because of their weak foundations, 
namely, corporate views of teen-age life. Their messages aren't reaching 
the youth of today in a manner that will stop any sort of drug use. So 
absurd and ridiculous are they, that any anti-drug institution has become a 
joke in the classroom. So what must be done to prevent this nation from 
becoming a flock of "junkies"?

Teen-agers have no trust in these ads and with good reason. They don't know 
who is behind them or where the exaggerated facts are spewing from. In 
order to gain a fraudulent sense of trust, celebrities have now hopped on 
the anti-drug bandwagon. But it's going to take a lot more than the faces 
of 'N Sync, Christina Aguilera and a few athletes to stop kids from abusing 
drugs. Where can they turn?

As inconceivable as it may sound, the answer lies in the home. From birth, 
children have trust in their parents, whether they'll admit it or not. If 
parents or mentors rear those they are responsible for in an appropriate 
manner, the rest will take care of itself. That's not saying parents are 
failures if their children fall into the dregs of drug abuse. They just 
might not have been watching their kids as closely as they were observing 
the rest of the world. It's time that parents and children take 
responsibility for weeding out prevalent drug use if they are so concerned 
with it.

The Partnership for a Drug Free America, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media 
Campaign and even the currently reforming D.A.R.E deserve commendation for 
their efforts. But alone, they aren't enough.

Parents, guardians and mentors are obligated to instruct those in their 
care about the importance of sober living. A little quality time goes a 
long way, especially at an early age. The years that children seek out 
their parents for company and comfort are few and should be taken advantage 
of to guide them down a path free from the pitfalls of drug abuse. The 
greatest weapon in the war on drugs is the haven of home.
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