569: D.A.R.E.

A Thousand Things to Talk About
569: D.A.R.E.

Did you go through D.A.R.E. (or something similar)? What was its impact on your views?

Full episode script

In the early 1980s, a Los Angeles police officer got very worried about the number of undercover officers who were able to purchase drugs in schools, and decided that he wanted to do something. Quoting from Priceonomics:

The LAPD, in conjunction with the local rotary club and the LA Unified School District (LAUSD), came up with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, DARE. Within a few years, DARE was a regular fixture in LA schools. By the mid-nineties, it was a national organization with multi-million dollar annual revenue.The program was popular among parents and students from its inception. It was also popular among politicians and bureaucrats, who saw DARE as a way to be proactive about, “The Drug Problem.” By 1995, DARE estimated its own costs at $200 million.


It was a lot of money to be put in to a program – but did it actually work? The short answer is — no. In the American Journal of Public Health in 2004, the authors did a meta-analysis of studies around DARE and found that, quote:

Our results confirm the findings of a previous meta-analysis3 indicating that Project D.A.R.E. is ineffective. This is not surprising, given the substantial information developed over the past decade to that effect. According to Cohen’s guidelines,13 the effect size we obtained would have needed to be 20 times larger to be considered even small. Given the tremendous expenditures in time and money involved with D.A.R.E., it would appear that continued efforts should focus on other techniques and programs that might produce more substantial effects.


While DARE is still used in some areas, there have been shifts to other programs. One of the most often cited is the Keepin’ it R.E.A.L program, which attempts to be a culturally focused youth drug-prevention program designed to increase resistance skills. Is the program actually effective? According to our friends at the National Institutes of Justice, who gave the sign-off on D.A.R.E., Keepin’ it REAL is considered “promising” for the fact it creates a less positive view of drug use over a 14 month period.


Yet as Scientific American points out, quote:

In a 2011 review of various substance abuse prevention programs, epidemiologist Melissa Stigler of the University of Texas School of Public Health and her colleagues observed that programs that unfold during many sessions—ideally, over several years—garner especially strong results.


So what education – if any – were you given on mind and body-altering substances while you were growing up?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.