As out of touch with the past as he seems with the present, Jeff Sessions thinks that America needs the D.A.R.E. program back in action. The hardline anti-drug campaign that made “This is your brain on drugs” their most compelling argument to say no to eggs, may be getting a revival.
D.A.R.E. does not work
At a D.A.R.E. conference in Texas this week, Jeff Sessions called for a throwback to the good old days. But maybe memory fails him almost as badly as D.A.R.E. failed in its mission.
D.A.R.E. is, I think, as I indicated, the best remembered anti-drug program today. In recent years, people have not paid much attention to that message, but they are ready to hear it again. We know it worked before and we can make it work again.
While Session’s remarks might find favor in the police who want to exert greater interaction and control over youth, they don’t line up with reality. In 1998, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service reported to Congress that,
D.A.R.E. does not work to reduce substance use. The program’s content, teaching methods, and use of uniformed police officers rather than teachers might each explain its weak evaluations.
No scientific evidence suggests that the D.A.R.E. core curriculum as originally designed or revised in 1993, will reduce substance use in the absence of continued instruction more focused on social competency development.
Any guesses why it didn’t work?
After Nancy Reagan coined the phrase, “Just Say No” became the memorable slogan of the LAPD’s new program, D.A.R.E., created in 1983. However, as police officers drone on educating kids on why people use drugs, along with a “Don’t do it because we say so” attitude, it failed the way most parents do. It sermoned and exaggerated, instead of teaching the social skills to stand up for abstinence.
What did most kids learn from the program? Well, they learned all about what drugs were available, and how they made them feel. Authority figures arouse the interest of students, rather than their caution. With that newfound knowledge, teen use actually rose.
It also emphasized the dangers of hard drugs while lumping in cannabis and everyday experience revealed an obvious inconsistency with these “facts”. As a result, kids quickly realized they were being manipulated with skewed agendas. Areas with the program actually saw slight increases in teen use of alcohol and tobacco, as their legal limits rather than true dangers ran the lessons.
Expert opinions don’t count
Scientific American published a compendium of expert sources stating the failings of the program in 2014. They included experts in statistics, public health, and psychology from the Universities of:
- Central Florida
- Texas School of Public Health
- Michigan, and even
- The Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction.
But those studies and experts don’t have the sheer willpower of Jeff Sessions. He, like his boss, will “Make America Great Again”, whatever that means in their eyes.