Popular Programs Either Don't Work Or Go Untested, Study Says
Chapel Hill, NC: The nation's three leading student drug prevention programs are either ineffective or sorely unevaluated, according to a study published this month in the journal Health Education Research. Programs highlighted in the study include McGruff's Drug Prevention and Child Protection, Here's Looking at You 2000, and DARE.
These programs are "not a very good use of taxpayer money," lead researcher Denise Hallfors of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation told the Associated Press. A previous evaluation conducted by Hallfors in 2000 reported similar results, noting specifically that the DARE program fails to have a long-term behavioral impact on teens.
To date, more than 30 studies, including those by the National Academy of Sciences, the University of Illinois, and a 10-year evaluation by the University of Kentucky, have criticized DARE's effectiveness. The largest of these, conducted jointly by the U.S. Justice Department and the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina concluded that DARE has a "limited to essentially nonexistent effect" on adolescent drug use.
In response to this research, as well as criticism from the Department of Education that the program lacks scientific merit, DARE announced last year that it would be changing its curriculum. The organization is currently conducting a 5-year study to evaluate the new curriculum, during which time the program continues to receive several million dollars in annual federal funding from the Department of Education, Department of Justice and the Department of Defense.
The DARE program currently pays and trains some 30,000 police officers to teach anti-drug lessons in an estimated 75 percent of school districts nationwide and in more than 50 countries. Recently, however, several school districts have begun pulling the plug on the drug prevention program, including Salt Lake City, Fort Worth (TX), and Jacksonville (FL). This week, Cincinnati city council officials also voted 6-3 in favor of scrapping the program, arguing that police officers' time would be better served on foot patrol.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. Abstracts of the Health Education Research report are available online at: http://her.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/17/4/461