GAO Gives DARE Anti-Drug Education Program A Failing Grade

Thursday, 30 January 2003

Report Says DARE Has "No Statistically Significant Long-Term Effect On Preventing Youth Illicit Drug Use"

Washington DC: The nation's most widely used school-based substance abuse prevention program does not influence graduates to refrain from experimenting with illicit drugs, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report evaluating the long-term effectiveness of the DARE program. DARE receives an estimated $230 million in federal and corporate subsidies to offer its curriculum in approximately 80 percent of public schools.

Despite the program's popularity, the GAO found no significant differences in illicit drug use between students who received DARE in the fifth or sixth grade and students who didn’t. "All of the evaluations suggested that DARE had no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use," the report concluded.

The GAO also noted that DARE curriculum urging students to resist peer pressure had no long-term impact in discouraging youth from using drugs.

NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said that the GAO’s findings were not surprising since dozens of other independent evaluations have reached similar conclusions. "The evidence demonstrating that DARE doesn’t work is so overwhelming that even DARE officials now admit their program is a failure," he said.

In 2001, DARE representatives admitted that there were serious problems with the program’s existing curriculum, and announced that they would overhaul it to focus on older students. DARE's revised curriculum is currently being evaluated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, although that study is not expected to be completed until 2006. The GAO noted that preliminary findings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation "did not contain any interim findings on the effectiveness of the DARE program in preventing illicit drug use among youth."

The DARE program continues to receive federal funding from both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education despite its notably poor performance.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751. The GAO report, "Youth Illicit Drug Use Prevention: DARE Long-Term Evaluations and Federal Efforts to Identify Effective Programs," is available online at: http://www.gao.gov (Search for this report using topic number: GAO-03-172R.)

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