Since the 70s when President Nixon declared his “War On Drugs”, the public and private schools have attempted to find the right messages to give their students to help prevent them from abusing alcohol or other drugs. Over the past forty years, the use of these substances has increased, with some years showing lower rates than the previous years, but no one in the alcohol and drug education and prevention field would claim that we are doing all that is needed to help our students make proactive and positive decision about their use of alcohol and other drugs.
Since prevention research takes years to establish the effectiveness of a prevention or education strategy, the prevention field drug rehab floundered with programs that have proven to produce untoward consequences with some prevention programs actually raising the experimentation and use of these dangerous substances.
When evaluated, the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program ne program, that received ample funding and support, was criticized for not producing the level of outcomes that would be expected. When compared to programs that emphasize social and general competencies and used interactive teaching strategies, the D.A.R.E program was substantially less effective. D.A.R.E brings samples of illicit and dangerous prescription drugs to the classroom in a presentation by a local police officer in an attempt to raise awareness and create fear about using these drugs.
Research found that for some students, this approach fueled their adolescent tendency to experiment with those things that adults say are dangerous, causing some students to use more than they would had they not had the D.A.R.E. presentation.
Since that research, D.A.R.E. has revised their approach, but the message that what adults and a caring community may feel is logically the right thing to help prevent adolescent alcohol and drug abuse may have other consequences.
The Scared Straight program drug education that has convicted drug users and pushers tell their stories to adolescents has lately been criticized as having some of the same negative outcomes as seen in the D.A.R.E. program, with too many youth emulating the negative behaviors rather than learning from the consequences of these actions.
As mentioned earlier, programs that utilized interactive teaching strategies have proven to be successful. One program that has had a significant impact on reducing early alcohol and drug abuse uses the total truth about drugs. These classroom presentations use scientific data and true stories about the effects of drugs. Surprising many parents and educators, young adults take the truth about drugs seriously and the success stories from these drug education classes has been astounding.
Certainly we all need to support alcohol and drug prevention drug prevention in our schools, but it behooves us all to use the accumulated data from earlier attempts to find out what works and what doesn’t. Youth substance abuse affects our communities and our futures, so we need to be smart about choosing the most successful approach.