HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html DARE Drug-Resistance Campaign, Called Ineffective, Is Being
Pubdate: Thu, 15 Feb 2001
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2001 San Jose Mercury News
Contact:  750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95190
Fax: (408) 271-3792
Author: Kate Zernike
Bookmark: (DARE)


Studies Disparage National Program For Schoolchildren

In a striking shift, leaders of the nation's most widely used program 
to discourage drug use among schoolchildren have acknowledged that 
their strategy has not had sufficient impact and say they are 
developing a new approach to spreading their message.

The DARE program, whose acronym stands for 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. Specially trained police officers who teach the 
program have become central figures in the lives of elementary school 
students, and the program's red logo has taken on iconic status on 
T-shirts and bumper stickers in thousands of communities.

But with criticism of the program's effectiveness increasing, DARE 
officials and independent researchers have quietly worked for two 
years to develop a new curriculum and plan to introduce it in 
Washington today. Controlled studies of about 50,000 students will 
begin in six cities and their suburbs in the fall.

DARE has long dismissed criticism of its approach as flawed or the 
work of groups that favor decriminalization of drug use. But the body 
of research had grown to the point that the organization could no 
longer ignore it.

In the past two months alone, both the U.S. surgeon general and the 
National Academy of Sciences have issued reports saying DARE's 
approach is ineffective, and several cities, most recently Salt Lake 
City, have discontinued the program.

The revisions also reflect a broader shift in efforts to dissuade 
children from using drugs. Founded by the Los Angeles Police 
Department in 1983 amid a raging drug epidemic, DARE was infused by 
the spirit of then-first lady Nancy Reagan's ``Just Say No'' 
approach. The new strategy reflects research that criticized that 
approach as simplistic, and other research that suggested that the 
DARE program occasionally encourages drug use, particularly among 
suburban youth, by making it seem more prevalent than it is.

``Our feeling was, after looking at the prevention movement, we were 
not having enough of an impact,'' said Herbert D. Kleber, the head of 
DARE's scientific advisory panel who is also medical director of the 
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia 
University. ``There was a marked rise in drug use. Our job was to 
answer the question, how can we make it better?''

DARE is also responding to a new hard-nosed mentality among federal 
education officials, who distribute about $500 million in 
drug-prevention grants each year. Starting last year, the Department 
of Education said it would no longer let schools spend money from its 
office of safe and drug-free schools on DARE because department 
officials do not consider it scientifically proven. The new 
curriculum buys DARE time to prove that it does work.

The DARE approach has been an amalgam of different messages about 
drug abuse and violence, but at its core it involves police officers 
visiting elementary school classrooms to tell students about the 
dangers of drugs and the importance of self-esteem, and offering them 
different ways to say ``No.''

``There's quite a bit we can do to make it better and we realize 
that,'' said Glenn Levant, president and founding director of DARE 
America, based in Los Angeles. ``I'm not saying it was effective, but 
it was state of the art when we launched it. Now it's time for 
science to improve upon what we're doing.''

The new DARE program is being developed at the University of Akron in 
Ohio by Zili Sloboda, who as director of the National Institute on 
Drug Abuse wrote a list of principles to guide drug-prevention 
programs. It is being underwritten by a $13.7 million grant from the 
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

One six-year study conducted by the University of Illinois found that 
the program's effects wore off by senior year of high school; in 
fact, it detected some increased use of drugs by suburban high 
schoolers who had taken the program.

A 10-year study conducted by the University of Kentucky found that 
the DARE program had no effect on students by the time they were 20 
years old.

The new program will work to change the perception of social norms 
among students.

The idea is based on the belief that traditional prevention programs 
may lead students to overestimate how many of their peers are using 
drugs. That, in turn, may influence more to aspire to that ``norm.''

The new strategy will shift the program's focus from fifth grade to 
seventh grade, and adds a booster program in ninth grade, because 
students in the higher grades are more likely to experiment with 
drugs. Students do more role playing, with an emphasis on how to make 
decisions, and talk about the effect of media and advertising.

``They're more savvy than they were before, they're maturing much 
earlier than they used to,'' Levant said. ``We need something that 
the kids will consider hip and cool and effective.''

Sloboda said that as head of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 
she had been concerned that DARE was not a proven program. But, she 
and others emphasized, it is far from the only program that does not 
work -- it has simply drawn the most criticism because it is the 

The two most frequently cited of more than 30 studies of the DARE 
program both reached the same conclusion: Any effect the program has 
in deterring drug use disappears as students reach senior year of 
high school or enter college.

Researchers complained that communities were mistaking the program's 
popularity for effectiveness.
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