Drug Abuse Resistance Program

Drug Abuse Resistance Education

Drug Abuse Resistance Education, better known as D.A.R.E. or DARE, is an international education program that seeks to prevent use of illegal drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior. D.A.R.E., which has expanded globally since its founding in 1983, is a demand-side drug control strategy of the U.S. War on Drugs. Students who enter the program sign a pledge not to use drugs or join gangs and are taught by local law enforcement about the dangers of drug use in an interactive in-school curriculum which lasts ten weeks.

DARE is popular and well-funded, at least in the United States. However, numerous scientific studies of the program report that D.A.R.E. does not actually decrease drug use among graduates. Some studies have even indicated that there is an increased rate of drug use among D.A.R.E. graduates. In 2001, the Surgeon General of the United States placed the D.A.R.E. program in the category of "Does Not Work".


D.A.R.E. America, a national non-profit organization, was founded in 1983 by Los Angeles Police chief Daryl Gates and Glenn Levant. Narcotics-related crimes were the main problems that the LAPD faced. D.A.R.E. was based on his contention that the present generation had already surrendered to drug dependency and that the country's future lay with the readiness of its children to resist involvement. Gates believed that uniformed police officers were the best equipped to deliver the message that drug use has adverse effects. The Safe and drug-free schools act (Improving America's Schools Act of 1994) provided funding for use in D.A.R.E. programs in the United States.


The instructors of the D.A.R.E. curriculum are local police officers who must undergo 80 hours of special training in areas such as child development, classroom management, teaching techniques, and communication skills. For high school instructors, 40 hours of additional training are prescribed. Police officers are invited by the local school districts to speak and work with students. Police officers are permitted to work in the classroom by the school district and do not need to be licensed teachers. There are programs for different age levels. Working with the classroom teachers, the officers lead students over a number of sessions on workbooks and interactive discussions.

The D.A.R.E. program enables students to interact with police officers or sheriffs in a controlled, safe, classroom environment. This helps students and officers meet and understand each other in a friendly manner, instead of having to meet when a student commits a crime, or when officers must intervene in domestic disputes and severe family problems. The Surgeon General reports that positive effects have been demonstrated regarding attitudes towards the police.

It is also a crime and violence prevention education program. The D.A.R.E. program cites cases where assertiveness and self-defense education helped prevent students from being harmed. D.A.R.E. officers also help schools when children are threatened, and their presence helps alleviate concerns about situations like school shootings and other threats of violence to children while at school.

In 2007, a new curriculum for prescription drug abuse and over-the-counter drug abuse was created by D.A.R.E. America. Other contributors included: law enforcement officials; PhRMA; Abbott Laboratories; the Consumer Healthcare and Products Association (CHPA); and a number of other organizations, including the ONDCP, the DEA, the FDA, the NIDA, the SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (SAMHSA/CSAT) and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Age groups

Elementary students are given lessons about the effects of

The senior high school D.A.R.E. project is a reinforcement with the prime lessons for students

  • to act in their own best interest when facing high-risk, low-gain choices
  • to resist peer pressure and other influences in making their personal choices


According to the D.A.R.E. website, 36 million children around the world — 26 million in the U.S. — are part of the program. The program is implemented in 80% of the nation's school districts, and 54 countries around the world. D.A.R.E. was one of the first national programs promoting zero tolerance. The D.A.R.E. program has received numerous accolades and awards for delivering the message to keep "kids off drugs" and remains widely popular and well funded, receiving over $1 billion per year in the United States alone.


The primary goal of the D.A.R.E. program is to teach kids not to do drugs The efficacy of the program can therefore be directly measured by comparing the subsequent drug use of students who did and did not attend the D.A.R.E. program. In the more than twenty year history of the program, many scientific studies have been done, and all seem to support the same conclusion: D.A.R.E. does not reduce drug use, and may even increase it.


1992 - Indiana University

Researchers at Indiana University, commissioned by Indiana school officials in 1992, found that those who completed the D.A.R.E. program subsequently had significantly higher rates of hallucinogenic drug use than those not exposed to the program.

1994 - National Institute of Justice

Other researchers found D.A.R.E. to be counterproductive in 1994. In 1994, the National Institute of Justice published a summary of a study conducted by the Research Triangle Institute. The study suggested that D.A.R.E. would benefit from a revised curriculum. This was launched in the fall of 1994.

After the 1994 Research Triangle Institute study, an article in the New Times Los Angeles stated that the “organization spent $41,000 to try to prevent widespread distribution of the RTI report and started legal action aimed at squelching the study.” The director of publication of the American Journal of Public Health told USA Today that "D.A.R.E. has tried to interfere with the publication of this. They tried to intimidate us." After reporter Dennis Cauchon published a story questioning the effectiveness of D.A.R.E. in USA Today, he received letters from classrooms around the country, all addressed to "Dear D.A.R.E.-basher," and all using nearly identical language.

1995 - California Department of Education

In 1995, a report to the California Department of Education by Joel Brown Ph. D. stated that none of California's drug education programs worked, including D.A.R.E. "California's drug education programs, D.A.R.E. being the largest of them, simply don't work. More than 40 percent of the students told researchers they were 'not at all' influenced by drug educators or programs. Nearly 70 percent reported neutral to negative feelings about those delivering the antidrug (sic) message. While only 10 percent of elementary students responded to drug education negatively or indifferently, this figure grew to 33 percent of middle school students and topped 90 percent at the high school level."

1998 - National Institute of Justice

In 1998, A grant from the National Institute of Justice to the University of Maryland resulted in a report to the NIJ, which among other statements, concluded that "D.A.R.E. does not work to reduce substance use." D.A.R.E. expanded and modified the social competency development area of its curriculum in response to the report. Research by Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum in 1998, found that D.A.R.E. graduates were more likely than others to drink alcohol, smoke tobacco and use illegal drugs. Psychologist Dr. William Colson asserted in 1998 that D.A.R.E. increased drug awareness so that "as they get a little older, they (students) become very curious about these drugs they've learned about from police officers. The scientific research evidence in 1998 indicated that the officers were unsuccessful in preventing the increased awareness and curiosity from being translated into illegal use. The evidence suggested that, by exposing young impressionable children to drugs, the program was, in fact , encouraging and nurturing drug use. Studies funded by the National Institute of Justice in 1998, and the California Legislative Analyst's Office in 2000 also concluded that the program was ineffective.

1999 - American Psychological Association

A ten-year study was completed by the American Psychological Association in 1999, involving one thousand D.A.R.E. graduates in an attempt to measure the effects of the program. After the ten year period no measurable effects were noted. The researchers compared levels of alcohol, cigarette, marijuana and the use of illegal substances before the dare program (when the students were in sixth grade) with the post D.A.R.E. levels (when they were 20 years old). Although there were some measured effects shortly after the program on the attitudes of the students towards drug use, these effects did not seem to carry on long term.

2001 - Surgeon General categorizes D.A.R.E. "Does Not Work"

In 2001, the Surgeon General of the United States, David Satcher M.D. Ph.D., placed the D.A.R.E. program in the category of "Does Not Work." The U.S. General Accountability Office concluded in 2003 that the program was sometimes counterproductive in some populations, with those who graduate from D.A.R.E. later having higher rates of drug use.

2007 - Perspectives on Psychological Science Article

In March 2007, the D.A.R.E. program was placed on a list of treatments that have the potential to cause harm in clients in the APS journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Criticism of ideology

Despite the criticism and notable research facts, D.A.R.E. is completely consistent with the "zero-tolerance orthodoxy of current U.S. drug control policy." According to researcher Dr. D. M. Gorman of the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies, it supports the ideology and the “prevailing wisdom that exists among policy makers and politicians. It also meets the needs of stake holders such as school districts, parents, and law enforcement agencies. “Part of what makes D.A.R.E. so popular is that participants get lots of freebies. There are fluorescent yellow pens with the D.A.R.E. logo, tiny Daren dolls, bumper stickers, graduation certificates, D.A.R.E. banners for school auditoriums, D.A.R.E. rulers, pennants, Daren coloring books, and T-shirts for all D.A.R.E. graduates.”

"D.A.R.E. America also has been very successful in marketing its program to the news media through a carefully orchestrated public relations campaign that highlights its popularity while downplaying criticism."

Psychologists at the University of Kentucky concluded that "continued enthusiasm [for D.A.R.E.] shows Americans' stubborn resistance to apply science to drug policy.

Jennifer Gonnerman of the Village Voice stated in 1999, "In D.A.R.E.'s worldview, Marlboro Light cigarettes, Bacardi rum, and a drag from a joint are all equally dangerous. For that matter, so is snorting a few lines of cocaine." D.A.R.E. "isn't really education. It's indoctrination.

Graduates informing on relatives

"D.A.R.E. has always warred on the family, pitting kids against parents" according to Joel Miller, a former aide for the California legislature. He writes that "Children are asked to submit to D.A.R.E. police officers sensitive written questionnaires that can easily refer to the kids' homes" and that "a D.A.R.E. lesson called 'The Three R's: Recognize, Resist, Report' … encourages children to tell friends, teachers or police if they find drugs at home.

In addition, "D.A.R.E. officers are instructed to put a 'D.A.R.E. Box' in every classroom, into which students may drop 'drug information' or questions under the pretense of anonymity. Officers are instructed that if a student 'makes a disclosure related to drug use,' the officer should report the information to further authorities, both school and police. This apparently applies whether the 'drug use' was legal or illegal, harmless or harmful. In a number of communities around the country, students have been enlisted by the D.A.R.E. officer as informants against their parents.

As a result, "children sometimes confide the names of people they suspect are illegally using drugs. A mother and father in Caroline County, Maryland, were jailed for 30 days after their daughter informed a police D.A.R.E. instructor that her parents had marijuana plants in their home, according to a story in The Washington Post in January 1993. The Wall Street Journal reported in 1992 that ‘In two recent cases in Boston, children who had tipped police stepped out of their homes carrying D.A.R.E. diplomas as police arrived to arrest their parents.’ In 1991, 10-year-old Joaquin Herrera of Englewood, Colorado, phoned 911, announced, ‘I'm a D.A.R.E. kid’ and summoned police to his house to discover a couple of ounces of marijuana hidden in a bookshelf, according to the Rocky Mountain News. The boy sat outside his parents' home in a police patrol car while the police searched the home and arrested the parents. The policeman assigned to the boy's school commended the boy's action.

"In the official D.A.R.E. Implementation Guide, police officers are advised to be alert for signs of children who have relatives who use drugs. D.A.R.E. officers are first and foremost police officers and thus are duty-bound to follow up leads that might come to their attention through inadvertent or indiscreet comments by young children.

Response to criticism

D.A.R.E. America has generally dismissed the criticisms and scientific studies of its program, labeling them false, misleading, or biased.

"D.A.R.E. has long dismissed criticism of its approach as flawed or the work of groups that favor decriminalization of drug use," according to the New York Times. In a press release titled "Pro-drug Groups Behind Attack on Prevention Programs; D.A.R.E. Seen as Target as Mayors' Conference Called to Combat Legalization Threat," D.A.R.E. asserted that pro-drug legalization individuals and groups were behind criticisms of the program, which were portrayed as based on "vested interests" and "to support various individual personal agendas at the expense of our children.

D.A.R.E. has also attacked critics for allegedly being motivated by their financial self-interest in programs that compete with D.A.R.E.. It has charged that "they are setting out to find ways to attack our programs and are misusing science to do it. The bottom line is that they don't want police officers to do the work, because they want it for themselves. Critics have also been dismissed as simply being jealous of D.A.R.E.'s success.

D.A.R.E. tends to rely on feelings and impressions. One leader explained that "I don't have any statistics for you. Our strongest numbers are the numbers that don't show up.” The 1998 University of Maryland report presented to the U.S. National Institute of Justice stated, "Officials of D.A.R.E. America are often quoted as saying that the strong public support for the program is a better indicator of its utility than scientific studies."

One D.A.R.E. supporter has observed that "the group is its own worst enemy because it has spent so much effort attacking the evaluators, rather than learning from research."

Cost and funding

The cost of the D.A.R.E. program in the United States was estimated at $1.04 to $1.34 billion per year in 2001. The program is used in about 80% of all school districts in the U.S., with an estimated 7,838 to 9,264 law enforcement officers participating full or part-time in the program. D.A.R.E. therefore represents a huge financial interest for many people, almost an industry in itself.

D.A.R.E. America is funded largely as a crime prevention program working through education within schools. It receives funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Bureau of Justice Administration, U.S. Office of Justice and Delinquency Prevention, corporations, foundations, individuals and other sources. In addition, state training and local programs typically receive funding from state legislature appropriations, state agencies, counties, cities, school districts, police agencies, individuals, and community fund raisers and other sources.


The D.A.R.E T-shirt is a T-shirt awarded to students in the U.S. and in other countries who complete the D.A.R.E program and pledge to stay drug-free. The D.A.R.E. program now authorizes screen-printers to license their graphics. D.A.R.E. programs can create their own personalized shirts with different colors that incorporate the D.A.R.E. logo and either a school or local police agency logo.

The standard (and most recognized) shirt design is a black tee with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) logo in red and accompanying text underneath in white printed on the front of the shirt. 'To Keep Kids Off Drugs' or 'To Resist Drugs and Violence' are common phrases printed on the shirt. The D.A.R.E. T-shirt was adopted from the Black concert T-shirt is associated with rock concerts. The classic black t-shirt has become a pop culture icon among youth and young adults in the U.S.

The sheriff of Lake County, Florida, explains that "all workbooks, materials and the very popular T-shirts must be purchased by the Sheriff's Office from D.A.R.E. America Inc. Often, the material and T-shirts could be purchased locally at less expense." He was surprised and disappointed to learn that the not-for-profit D.A.R.E. corporation now also promotes the sale of its merchandise by for-profit businesses. These private companies can make 80% profit. Of the 20% returned to D.A.R.E. America, Inc., by the companies, none is returned to the local areas from which the profits are derived to support the program.

The D.A.R.E. T-shirt has inspired parody T-shirts featuring backronyms such as "Drugs Are Really Excellent". One hemp enthusiast, Mark Hornaday, faced a 4-year prison term and a $20,000 fine from charges filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office in 1995. Hornaday created and sold a parody t-shirt, with the inscription, "I turned in my parents and all I got was this lousy t-shirt". NORML defended the suit on free-speech grounds. Charges were eventually dropped.

A number of D.A.R.E. programs in local police departments have some vehicles marked as police cars to promote the program. The D.A.R.E. cars appear at schools in parades. Typically these cars are high-end or performance cars that have been seized in a drug raid. They are used to send the message that drug dealers forfeit all their glamorous trappings when they get caught. D.A.R.E. cars can also be regular police vehicles that are nearing the end of their service life that are pressed into service for the promotion, or new police cars outfitted especially for the D.A.R.E. program.

In the United Kingdom

D.A.R.E. (UK) is a national charity that operates across the UK. The program has been delivered (now discontinued) by Police Officers from the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) to children who attend schools on Garrison estates or located near Garrison areas.

The D.A.R.E UK program is currently operating in the following areas:

  • East Midlands
  • South West
  • London
  • Wales

The program aims to:

  • Provide drug education and prevention activities to help children to understand the dangers of the misuse of drugs
  • Teach about the harmful effects of drugs, providing information that is appropriate to the age group to which it is delivered
  • Develop the life skills to resist peer pressure and personal pressure, and to avoid the misuse of drugs
  • Prevention is better than intervention
  • Educate primary and secondary school children, therefore preventing many of them from misusing drugs


The U.S. Department of Education prohibits any of its funding to be used to support drug prevention programs that have not been able to demonstrate their effectiveness. Accordingly, D.A.R.E. America has instituted a major revision of its curriculum which is currently being evaluated for possible effectiveness in reducing drug use. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified 66 alternative model programs, of which D.A.R.E. is not listed.

See also


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