Constant Improvement

The secret of DARE's success


One study after another has found that DARE, the nation's most popular substance abuse prevention program, does not actually prevent substance abuse. Yet DARE (a.k.a. Drug Abuse Resistance Education) claims it is constantly revising its curriculum, so any research indicating that it doesn't work is immediately outdated. And with a few exceptions, school districts always seem willing to give DARE another chance.

In the latest confirmation of this tendency, a survey of 81 school districts in 11 states found that 82 percent were using DARE. "DARE has been widely studied," noted University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers Denise Hallfors and Dionne Godette in the August issue of Health Education Research, "and found to have relatively small short-term effects with no long-term benefits on substance use behavior." As Hallfors told the Associated Press, "It's not a very good use of taxpayer money."

As usual, DARE was unfazed. The Associated Press reported that DARE America's executive director, Charlie Parsons, "said the research in Hallfors' study refers to DARE's old curriculum, which is no longer used." DARE is in the midst of a five-year study to evaluate the new curriculum. If the results are disappointing, you can be sure there will be yet another curriculum waiting in the wings.