DARE: Failing American Youth And Taxpayers For Thirty Years

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director April 18, 2013


    With tongue firmly planted in her cheek, leading scholar, author and activist for youth drug education, Marsha Rosenbaum, Ph.D, from the Drug Policy Alliance, criticizes DARE’s ineffectiveness and expense for the last thirty years.

    ‘Just Say No’ Turns 30

    Marsha Rosenbaum, Ph.D

    If you are under 40, it is very likely that you, like 80 percent of schoolchildren in the U.S., were exposed to Drug Abuse Resistance Education, which celebrates its 30th birthday this month.

    D.A.R.E. was created by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1983, following the rise of a conservative parents movement and First Lady Nancy Reagan in need of a cause. The purpose of D.A.R.E. was to teach students about the extreme dangers of drugs by sending friendly police officers into classrooms to help kids resist the temptation to experiment; to stand up in the face of peer pressure; and to “just say no.”

    Because of its widespread use in elementary schools all across America (and in over 40 countries around the world), D.A.R.E .was evaluated extensively. The reviews consistently showed that while students enjoyed interacting with police (especially examining the sample cases of drugs used for show and tell), and may have been initially deterred, effects were short lived. In fact, by the time D.A.R.E. graduates reached their late teens and early 20s, many had forgotten what they had learned or rejected the exaggerated messages they’d heard. And by 2001, D.A.R.E. was deemed by none other than the United States Surgeon General, “an ineffective primary prevention program,” and lost 80 percent of its federal funding shortly thereafter.

    Yet D.A.R.E .has kept going — trying to keep up with the times, at least rhetorically, with its new “Keepin’ it Real” curriculum. Last fall, I read with keen interest that the program in Washington State had been notified by national D.A.R.E., its oversight agency, that the subject of marijuana would be dropped from the curriculum.

    What???? The very same D.A.R.E. program that taught my daughter that marijuana would lead to heroin addiction isn’t even mentioning pot? Had it given up its “reefer madness” campaign, perhaps in light of Washington’s Initiative 502 that legalized marijuana last November?

    I had to call and hear for myself about these big changes.

    President and CEO Frank Pegueros told me that, in fact, D.A.R.E. had changed. The didactic approach is gone, replaced by dialogue and discussion. “Just say no,” he said, “has gone by the wayside.” It sounded almost touchy feely to me.

    I was encouraged, thinking for a brief moment that the chorus of anti-D.A.R.E. critics, like me, who emphasized the importance of honest, science-based drug education, had actually been heard.

    But then I asked Mr. Pegueros about marijuana, and why it was dropped from the curriculum, and that’s when I got the real scoop.

    Actually, it was not officially dropped. Instead, not wanting to pique students’ interest, the subject of marijuana will be discussed by D.A.R.E. officers only if it is brought up by students themselves. And what will they be told? As for content, one needs only to peruse www.dare.com to see that although the packaging may have evolved, the content has remained the same: marijuana is a very dangerous drug; medical marijuana is a hoax; and big money, rather than compassion and pragmatism, is behind legalization initiatives.

    By now it is commonly known that the extreme dangers of marijuana have been exaggerated, and few users become addicted or graduate to hard drug use; roughly 70 percent of the American population supports medical marijuana; and it is public opinion that is driving initiatives and legislation to make medical marijuana available to people who need it.

    If D.A.R.E. failed to convince youth a generation ago to “just say no” because its content was unbelievable, no amount of new anti-drug rhetoric will help. Students didn’t believe what they were told 30 years ago, and they’re too smart to believe it now.

    And worse, D.A.R.E.’s recycled rhetoric will certainly fail to provide young people with useful information to help them make wise, health-driven decisions about dealing with the myriad of substances available to them today.

    So Happy 30th D.A.R.E. Now that you’re approaching middle age, how about trying “just say know” this time around?

    Marsha Rosenbaum is the founder of the Safety First drug education project at the Drug Policy Alliance and author of “Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs.”





    33 responses to “DARE: Failing American Youth And Taxpayers For Thirty Years”

    1. TLC says:

      Continuing to support one of the true “Gateways:” if you lie to them and they know it, they won’t believe you when they’re not.

      Haven’t these people heard about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf?”

    2. dax says:

      40 years old i was lucky enough not to have to hear this stuff in school,didn’t start smoking cannabis until i was 18 and out of school:) now i have 4 kids a job that i never have to worry about losing and a house note.I guess am one of the bad evil pot heads i always hear about killing and raping people after getting high O_O dam am an outcast in society!!!

    3. John Doe, Sr. says:

      D.A.R.E. is just propaganda targeted at kids.


    4. johnnyd says:

      Yep,the ole DARE program.I remember WELL in Jr high school when the FWPD (Fort Wayne Police Dept) officers would come andattempt to ”scare us straight”It was SO ridiculous,because we were all smoking pot,yet not ONE of us (or anybody we had ever heard of) had jumped off a rooftop…and since we KNEW THEY WERE LYING about marijuana, we knew we were on our own about evaluating other drugs we were exposed to…

    5. Joel: the other Joel says:

      The only change D.A.R.E was successful at was the change it has caused on the parents. It brought fear to them from their brain washed children.
      Many families were victims from the D.A.R.E. programs. (The Children of the Corn syndrome that were caused by D.A.R.E.)

    6. TheOracle says:

      After visiting the D.A.R.E. web page about marijuana and reading what they have to say about marijuana it demonstrates the organization functions as an organ of the federal government, towing the official line of the CSA. If it’s on the books as a controlled substance, D.A.R.E. will put forth the negative aspects, true or false, exaggerated or not.

      I’m again taken aback, surprised, to find out that I’m supposed to be big money promoting legalization, which I take issue with. Here I am on one of the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, stuck in a shitty dead-end job toiling away while people around me are raking in the bucks left and right. They’re the ones who because they make so much more money than I do think that gives them the right to tell everybody how they can live their lives even if they aren’t hurting anyone, tell them which drug to use to relax or celebrate with: alcohol. There are a few wealthy backers I know of. Thank you, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Soros, Mr. Branson, and everybody else I’ve neglected to mention who donates big.

      This part of D.A.R.E. has truly been a waste of money. In stating that they wait until a student brings it up D.A.R.E. admits they were piquing interest, making a situation worse by piquing young people’s curiosity, leading to more kids using pot than if they hadn’t brought it up?

      The spokesman just admitted the failure of marijuana prohibition.

      You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

      Looks like D.A.R.E. is fooling fewer and fewer people.

      D.A.R.E. will change its tune when the feds change the page of music they’re all looking off of.

      What will the legalization page look like, you know, so they’re looking off the same sheet of music?

      Think Colorado!

      “The Rocky Mountain Way is better than the way we had.”

      Rocky Mountain Way


      Joe Walsh

    7. Evening Bud says:

      This reminds me of an incident that happened back in the 1990s. My brother was a teacher’s aid at a junior high school at that time, and he told me that during an assembly in the gym, they had an anti-drug speaker. Don’t recall if he was part of the DARE program or not. But after he finished his speech, he asked the kids? “What do we say to drugs?” And they hollered back in unison, “Just say yes!”

      My brother said their loud reply left the guy shocked and the principal angry.

      Those junior high kids are all adults now.

    8. Douglas says:

      It make the pro cannabis probiton falks feel good

    9. Dustin says:

      Only thing DARE taught me (taken 3 times 5th grade 6th grade 9th grade) was what kind of drugs I wanted to try.

    10. Pissed says:

      The lies that the government tells for the sake of public health and safety! The moral sacrifices they make for us, the citizens! From DARE, to how safe vaccines are, to 9/11 esp NIST’s explanation of tower 7’s demolition, to how freedom-hating the Taliban are, to WMDs in Iraq, to how necessary the Patriot Act is, to how noble the israeli occupation is, back to cannabis having no medical use! The lies continue and the truth suppressed.