Founded in 1983 by Daryl Gates, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.,) joined the war against drugs way back when my parents were kids. Since that time, D.A.R.E. has been implemented into 75% of school districts in the US. (“About DARE”) But has it been effective? The D.A.R.E. program drains over a whopping one billion dollars of government money every year, and for what? A potentially harmful sense of security for suburbian parents? Products of the program who are truly indistinguishable from peers without the D.A.R.E. classes?
Some studies and politicians with minds set on alternative, frivolous spending would say no- D.A.R.E. is ineffective and outdated. I would disagree. It may seem to some that dare cost too much and yields too little, where in truth, the D.A.R.E. program saves lives worth every cent.
Claims have been made that graduates of the D.A.R.E. program are no different from those who went through school without it. (Steven West, PhD and Keri K. O’Neal PhD) However according to studies, the use of tobacco products, the number one killer in the US, decreased among fifth and sixth grade participants. Even better? Students who have completed the program are five times less likely to take up smoking. (Nasar U. Ahmed, Noushin S. Ahmed, C. Ray Bennett, and Joseph E. Hinds) Our lungs thank you, D.A.R.E..And so do our parents. Ninety-nine percent of polled parents give approval of D.A.R.E. and so do ninety-five percent of their kids. (D.A.R.E National Client Survey 2007) This program does not provide parents with a false sense of security and lull them into thinking it unnecessary to speak to their kids themselves about the dangers of drug use, as some would argue. (Erica C. Barnett) Instead, it offers the perfect entry point for parents to start such a discussion.
Unfortunately, since the mid 2000’s it is indeed a fact that 60% of schools in 32 sampled states have dropped their partnership with the D.A.R.E. program. (Andrew Seidman) Yet even with these seemingly dull numbers, D.A.R.E. remains the most prevalent program in the United States to date. It has partnered with over 50,000 police officers, spread to 43 countries as of last year, and been estimated to have effected an astounding 36 million kids worldwide. Outdated? I think not.
In conjunction with its widespread popularity, the D.A.R.E. program has bulletproof credentials. The United States SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has certified it as an, “evidence based substance abuse prevention program.” It has been shown to improve four different student outcomes. Those outcomes being substance use among adolescence, an attitude against substance use, beliefs about substance use, and substance use resistance.
But the number one outcome of the program? Saved lives. The goal of the D.A.R.E. program is save students from a life of addiction and gang violence, a goal that should be pursed regardless of temporal cost or statistical efficacy. Five hundred lives, twenty-seven lives, one life- anything is worth saving, and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program has the means to do that.