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Project DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education): Does It Work?

NCJ Number
Juvenile Justice Update Volume: 1 Issue: 4 Dated: (August-September 1995) Pages: 5-7
D Kochis
Date Published
3 pages
This analysis of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program concludes that despite the program's popularity, its potentially positive effects do not appear to include preventing juvenile drug use and that other curricula may be equally or more effective in influencing knowledge, attitudes, and actual drug use.
DARE is typically presented to fifth and sixth graders through a series of 16 or 17 weekly in-school sessions taught by full-time, uniformed police officers trained in the DARE curriculum. Dozens of DARE programs have been evaluated. The studies vary considerably in both methods and statistical analyses. Although some studies reveal that DARE has the positive effects of promoting positive police- juvenile relations and imparting accurate information about drugs and drug use, but it does not appear to deter drug use. DARE rests on social learning theory and emphasizes recognition and response skills as a means of prevention. However, it is not clear whether the cognitive skills or attitudes emphasized in the programs ultimately translate into social behaviors such as resistance to peer pressure and drug use. Some researchers believe that adolescent drug use is not linked to rational thought, because adolescents often engage in unplanned behavior. In addition, no theoretical or empirical data support the self-esteem exercise used in DARE, and controversy exists regarding the relationship between self-esteem and drug abuse. Furthermore, the identification of comparison groups and the low base rates of drug use in the targeted age groups are among the methodological problems in DARE research. Although DARE instructors have raised student awareness levels, the link between attitude and behavior and the long-term impact of DARE and similar programs remain to be determined.