NO EFFECTS AT 10-YEAR FOLLOW-UP
D.A.R.E. Remains Popular Despite Lack of Documented Effects
Washington - Project D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) may be
one of the most popular drug education programs in the country, but a
new study finds the program has no long-term effect on drug use. The
present study, published in the August issue of the American
Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, followed up an earlier study which also found no long-term
effect on drug use. However, the new study notes that most kids do not
engage in drug use, even without any intervention.
In the study, psychologist Donald R. Lynam, Ph.D., and other researchers
at the University of Kentucky tracked over 1,000 Midwestern students who
participated in Project D.A.R.E. in the sixth grade. These students were
reevaluated at age 20, ten years after receiving the drug prevention
education. Although the D.A.R.E. intervention produced a few initial
improvements in the students' attitudes toward drug use, the researchers
found that these changes did not persist over time. There were no
effects in actual drug use initially or during the follow-up period. Dr.
Lynam emphasizes that the findings do not mean that nothing should be
done to prevent drug use among young people. "Some youth will use drugs
and this will likely effect their lives in negative ways. We should try
to do something for these youth, but D.A.R.E. is probably not the thing
to do," he said.
In the study, the researchers compared pre-D.A.R.E. levels of cigarette,
alcohol, marijuana and illicit drug use of the students to such use at
age 20. For each drug category, participants were asked to report how
often they had used the substance in their lifetime, during the past
year, and during the past month, along with a variety of questions
concerning their expectancies about drug use. Pre-and post-D.A.R.E.
levels of peer-pressure resistance and self-esteem were also compared.
The results indicate that D.A.R.E. had no significant positive effect.
In a totally unexpected finding, those students exposed to the D.A.R.E.
program in the sixth grade had lower levels of self-esteem ten years
later. However, the researchers say that finding cannot be accounted for
theoretically and is most likely a chance finding that is unlikely to be
So why does D.A.R.E. remain so popular with parents and school personnel
despite its lack of demonstrated efficacy? The researchers offer two
possible answers. "First, teaching children to refrain from drug use is
a widely accepted approach with which few individuals would argue. Thus,
similar to other such interventions, such as the 'good touch/bad touch'
programs to prevent sexual abuse, these 'feel-good' programs are ones
that everyone can support, and critical examination of their
effectiveness may not be perceived as necessary." The study's authors
say the second possible explanation for the popularity of programs such
as D.A.R.E. is that they appear to work. Adults rightly perceive that
most children who go through D.A.R.E. do not engage in drug use, not
realizing that the vast majority of children, even without any
intervention, do not engage in drug use.
Dr. Lynam says some other drug education programs offered in schools
have shown some effect in preventing drug use, but the results are
neither strong nor long lasting. "It may be unrealistic to expect any
universal program to be effective," he said. "Not all kids are at risk;
maybe we can do better with more intensive and targeted interventions."
Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at
Contact: David Partenheimer
Public Affairs Office
Donald R. Lynam, Ph.D., can be reached at (606) 257-8662 or
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the
largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology
in the United States and is the world's largest association of
psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers,
educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions
in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state,
territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance
psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting
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