DARE program "increases drug use"

Filed under: Day Care & Education

Like most people my age, I went through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in middle school. By the time I was high school, the program was only mentioned as the butt of students' jokes. That aside, given the high number of young people that experiment with drugs and alcohol, it seems obvious that the program has been ineffective.

But what's worse, is that the program may actually increase drug and alcohol use among adolescents.

The reasoning is, that no program, no matter how effective, will alter the behavior of low or high risk students -- those kids that never would have, or will almost certainly try drugs by the time they're in high school. However, DARE not only introduces the concept of drug use to students at moderate risk for abuse, but also magnifies student use -- inadvertently telling kids that "everyone's doing it" by hammering away at the "epidemic" of narcotics in schools. Subsequently, while those kids might leave DARE somewhat scared of the physical side effects of abuse, that will take a back seat to what they perceive as peer pressure -- their "over-riding desire to fit in."

As an alternative, some school counselors are advocating a more moderate approach. They want to openly discuss -- without judgment -- the actual use in schools, believing that students will be far less likely to "jump on the bandwagon" when they realize that isn't much of a bandwagon in the first place.

It's an interesting approach, and it seems clear that something has to change if we're actually interested in curbing teenage drug and alcohol abuse. I'm always in favor of policies based on respect and honesty, rather than those -- like DARE -- that seem to rely on fear.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.