Quotes for Note
From: "The Irrelevance of Evidence in the Development of school-based drug prevention policy," 1986-1996" by D. M. Gorman, Evaluation Review, vol 22, no 1, February 1998 118-146.
"The evidence presented herein, from both national surveys and program
evaluations, shows that we have yet to develop successful techniques
of school-based drug prevention. The claims made on behalf of this
aspect of the nation's drug control strategy are largely unsupported
by empirical data. Evidence is cited to selectively support the use
of certain programs, and there is virtually no systematic testing of
interventions developed in line with competing theoretical models
of adolescent drug use."
"Programs can be proven to have 'worked' because the standards by which
they are judged can be continuously lowered. Questions are raised
about those who dispute claims of effectiveness regarding the chosen
policies. The issue becomes not whether the stated goals and objectives
of programs are being met, but the commitment and motives of critics.
The burden of proof is placed on them to demonstrate the detrimental
effects of policies and programs, whereas advocates are free to
make lavish claims of success and value to society."
Thus, by 1980 there was little evidence available from program evaluations to support the idea that school-based education was among the "essential components" of a comprehensive drug control strategy. Indeed, in the opinion of many researchers, such education was apt to do more harm than good.
The latter aspect of the ALERT evaluation illustrates a peculiar feature of school-based drug prevention research during
the past 10 years: Whatever the outcome, the recommendation is for more of the program and more evaluation. With the
exception of D.A.R.E., negative findings are seldom accompanied by a suggestion that we try something else. Information
and affective programs of earlier years were unable to survive negative evaluations; in contrast, social influence programs
invariably live to fight another day.
D.M. Gorman, Rutgers University, Center for Alcohol Studies: "The Failure of Drug Education," Public Interest, Fall 1997.
"With regard to education, the available evidence
indicates that we have yet to develop strategies
that can significantly reduce illicit drug use among
young people. We could almost certainly stop funding
certain activities, such as school-based prevention
programs, with no adverse consequences. However,
givn the bi-partisan popularity of drug education, dramatic
reductions in federal drug-prevention funding are unlikely
to occur, at least in the near future. In the meantime,
local agencies such as school boards and city councils
need to establish exactly what their drug-prevention
dollars are buying. They should cease funding activities
that have the potential to do harm and ensure that claims
concerning new, more effective programs are subject to
assessment by independent observers. Until that is done
no one will know whether education efforts are doing
more harm than good."
"However, unlike other aspects of drug-control policy,
prevention or education has been hardly analyzed.
Law enforcement and interdiction efforts have been the
subject of debate in both the popular press and academic
circles, as have such such treatments as needle exchange
and methadone maintenance. In contrast, prevention is
simply assumed to be laudable enterprise, and, as will be
be discussed later, the claims of its proponents are
uncritically accepted by the press and policy makers.
But is it really the case that such programs succeed?
And, more particularly, did federal spending on drug-prevention
activities play a role in reducing adolescent drug use
over the past 10 years?"
"Examination of data contained in the two documents reveals
drug use was falling steadily among young people prior to
the increase in government spending that occurred in the late
1980s. By 1987, when federal spending really began to
accelerate, the proportion of twelfth graders reporting use
of any illicit substance had already fallen to 25 percent,
from its peak high of 39 percent in 1979. (some statistics omitted)
However, the above statistics are sufficient to address
the fundamental issue raised by advocates of current
drug-prevention policies and programs--namely, whether
a sustained level of federal funding is necessary to reduce
drug use among young people. Clearly, the impact is
negligible. Indeed, federal spending on drug-education
programs and activities might have made things worse.
(Traces history of spending and mentions that there is
some lag effect of 3 to 5 years between appropriation
of moneys for drug-prevention programs and the manifestations
of their effects on rates of adolescent drug use.
"Accordingly, the period of rapid federal spending, which
commenced in 1987, coincides --closely in the case of a
three-year lag, or exactly in the case of a five-year
lag -- to the period of increased drug use (1992 to 1995)."
"How might federal spending on drug prevention have encourage
drug use? This is a difficult question to answer, as details
on exactly how the money is spent are sparse and controlled
studies of programs are rare. However, an examination
of school-based-prevention programs--the mainstay of drug
prevention in the United States--suggests why drug prevention
activities might have unintended consequences."
"Social-influence programs retained the zero-tolerance message
of their predecessors--all drug use was considered harmful and
wrong. In addition, however, students were now taught the
social skills that were supposedly necessary to remain drug
free. In some cases, the programs employeed a narrowly focused
approach primarily concerned with teaching drug-resistance skills,
in others, a broad-based approach was used to enhance a wide range
of "life skills".
"The programs attempt to teach "affective techniques."
such as assertiveness training, self-esteem enhancement,
and improved decision making. A person who possesses these skills
, it is argued, is better able to cope with life and, hence has
no reason to experiment with drugs. In short, the underlying
assumption is that young people who use drugs are socially
incompetent. But there is little empirical evidence to
support this idea."
(Contradictory article is Shedler and Block, 1990 American
Discussion of two papers omitted, which have results that
are not compelling for the social-influences approach.
Discussion of Life Skills Training omitted. Says claims
made on behalf the program are largely unsupported.
With regard to education, the available evidence indicates that
we have yet to develop strategies that can significantly
reduce illicit drug use among young people. We could almost
certainly stop funding certain activities, such as school-based
prevention programs, with no adverse consequences, However,
given the bi-partisan popularity of drug education, dramatic
reductions in federal drug-prevention funding are unlikely
to occur, at least in the near future. In the meantime, local
agencies such as school-boards and city councils need to establish
exactly what their drug-prevention dollars are buying. They should
cease funding activities that have the potential to do harm
and ensure that claims concerning new, more effective programs
are subject to assessment by independent observers. Until
that is done no one will know whether education efforts are
doing more harm than good."
"How D.A.R.E. Works: An Examination of Program Effects on Mediating Variables", by William B. Hansen Ph.D. and Ralph B. McNeal,Jr. Ph.D.,
Health Education and Behavorior, vol 24, (2) 165-176 (April 1997)
"A salient element of D.A.R.E. has been teaching resistance skills. Based on mediated relationships, this approach should have been effective at least with cigarate smoking. However, D.A.R.E. failed to achieve a marked improvement in this mediator, suggesting that either
teaching methods or program content was inadequate. The curriculum
similarly addressed but failed to change self-esteem among the
participants. Based on the analysis of mediator potential, addressing
these issues is likely to have less payoff than addressing such variables as commitment, normative beliefs, and perceptions of value and lifestyle
incongruence with substance use."
"D.A.R.E. has been consistently characterized as a program that has minimially positive preventive effects on substance use. The most consistent positive finding is a slight reduction in tobacco use. The effects appear to be primarily accounted for by changes in commitment to not use substances: the program enhances this committment. Other mediators that might have accounted for behaviorial effects were either not targeted or were not changed by the program; for example, the mediated paths that go through normative beliefs and the incongruence between lifestyle and values did not approach signficance. This suggests that either these paths were not targeted or the program produced no meaningful effect on them. The implications of these findings is that prevention approaches such as D.A.R.E. need
significant curriculum enhancements. In the case of the tested D.A.R.E.
curriculum, it may need to be replaced by a curriculum that has the
potential to target and alter variables that truly mediate substance
use and other problem behaviors."
William B. Hansen, PhD
Tanglewood Research, Inc.
P.O. Box 1772
Clemmons NC 27012
phone and fax: 910 766-3940
Speech given to township committee
at their budget hearing on DARE, in an effort to have
them defund it. Here is what was read.
The D.A.R.E. program that the police run is a waste of the taxpayers
money. This has been documented in numerous studies.
The latest study is from the University of Illinois at Chicago
and is funded by the Illinois State police.
Let me give you its main conclusions:
A paper entitled "Students and Educators Evaluate
California School-based Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco, Education
programs" by Joel Brown and 4 other authors prepared for the
California State Department of Education, March 1995 recommends
Discontinue primarily harmful consequences educational services.
"Even though many students can display the rote knowledge that any
substance use is unhealthy, at the same time during the
early grades, students show little or no evidence of understanding
harmful consequences information. Elementary-level students showed,
and high school students retrospectively stated, that when
they were in elementary school, they did not understand the harmful
consequences that the DARE officer spoke of.
At the same time,
evidence clearly shows that by middle or high schools, programs
like DARE, Red Ribbon Weeks, and Health/Science courses containing
the primarily harmful consequences of use are far too simplistic
for sophisticated student perceptions."
An article in Reason magazine for March 1995 explains some of the
reasons for the failure of D.A.R.E.
DARE was being studied by a team of researchers from the
University of Southern California. They discovered
that DARE was using "affective" education
and that such education was linked to the dreaded
"boomerang" effect in which children are actually
encouraged to fiddle with drugs.
An article in New Republic for March of 1997 by Stephen Glass
documents the efforts of DARE America to interfere
with publication of peer-reviewed studies of DARE
and its effects. And that they tried to block
NBC from broadcasting a DATELINE segment on
DARE in February of 1997. By the way I have a tape
of that segment if you would like to see it.
Another article on DARE in Evaluation Review for April 1995
by William Hansen and Ralph McNeal Jr, states:
"Overall the program has not demonstrated effectiveness
worthy of its widespread promotion, particularly given
the much larger effects typically observed among other existing
prevention programs." (p. 155)
And "there is a general pattern of findings that seem to
converge on D.A.R.E. having no or minimal effects on substance
Two federal agencies that evaluate drug education programs
do not recommend D.A.R.E.
D.A.R.E. is known to be a failure based on at least half a dozen
independent peer reviewed studies.
We should follow the example of many other towns across the country
who have eliminated the D.A.R.E. program.
I can provide you with a list of those towns.
In the past we were told by the Township Committee that D.A.R.E. was mandated by
the New Jersey Attorney General.
However I have a letter
from the Attorney General's office which states:
"The Statewide Narcotics Task Force does not interpret Directive 2.7 to require
implementation of curriculum as provided by the D.A.R.E. America Corporation.
The various drug education programs listed on page 33-35 of the Statewide
Narcotics Action Plan are alternative program suggestions for drug
education programs which could be provided to comply with
Directive 2.7 of the Plan. Likewise, municipalities could comply
with Directive 2.7 by developing their own initiative to provide
drug education within their schools."
The program is not mandated if the municipality already has
a drug education program. Our school district has at least 3 such
programs and the school administration informs me by letter that
they are satisfied with those other programs. Let's put officers
on the street and not in the classroom or playground.
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