Drug Prevention in the U.S.
One of the many ways to prevent people from taking drugs is to teach them about the harmful effects of drugs. Therefore, it is important to start teaching kids the negative effects of drugs before they get introduced to them on the street. The DARE program is the main national program that tries to accomplish this.
DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education and is for school kids from kindergarten to twelfth grade. It is a federally funded program that is taught by police officers in schools. DARE teaches students how to make good decisions like avoiding situations where drugs or alcohol would be offered.
I went through a DARE program when I was in fifth and sixth grade. It was the most exciting part of the year. Everyone in my class thought it was amazing that a police officer came to our class to teach us. We all got DARE t-shirt and booklets and the officer led us through several of the activities in the booklet. The police officer went over what different drugs looked like with a display with actual pills in it and showed us pictures of items used to take drugs. He even brought in marijuana pipes the police had confiscated from drug users. He also talked about peer pressure and how to say no to drugs if they were offered to us. The police officer also brought in the drug dog for us to meet, which was definitely a highlight. While I won’t say it is because of the DARE program I never took drugs, it did raise my awareness of the existence of drugs and what to watch out for.
Since there are people who don’t say that DARE programs prevented them from taking drugs, there has been some controversy as to whether or not DARE is effective. There have been several studies done and each one says something different. Some say DARE programs are effective while others say it isn’t. In response to this another program was added to the DARE program called “Keepin’ it REAL”. This program is aimed at middle school students ages 12-14 and has proven that it is cost effective by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In addition to DARE programs, many schools teach students about negative health effects of drugs in health classes. In middle school and high school all the health classes I was required to take had a section on drugs and the negative health effects. This reinforced what I had learned in the DARE program and helped ensure that what I knew about drugs was accurate. While DARE programs are helpful there are some schools that do not teach DARE programs and have their own way of teaching kids about drugs. Studies have shown that these programs are just as effective as DARE programs.
In the U.S. the most popular way to teach young students about drugs is through the DARE program. It gives the students a chance to interact with police officers and ask the police officer questions. DARE programs are not going to work in all communities. In some areas DARE introduces students to drugs and doesn’t necessarily prevent them from starting drugs. Some people even say that DARE increased their curiosity about drugs saying: “…it helped turn me on to drugs. I was very curious as to why we shouldn’t do it.” and “DARE taught me what drugs I wanted to try and actually sparked my interest in drugs…”. This is obviously not what DARE is trying to do. Since kids are still trying drugs and DARE gets money from the government, makes people disapprove of DARE programs if they are not going to stop kids from doing drugs. In places where DARE has not been as effective, it is losing popularity and is being replaced by other prevention programs in some schools. This demonstrates that the DARE program needs to take a different approach to drug prevention and re-do its program to become more effective.
My personal experience with DARE programs has been extremely successful, and with DARE’s popularity it has the potential to be an amazing program for the whole nation. This would mean changing how DARE presents drug prevention to something that will teach kids about drugs, but not make them want to try them. The thing that needs to be remembered is that taking a dramatic “drugs are the worst thing in the world” approach is not going to prevent kids from trying drugs. Instead, being honest about drugs, why people do them, what drugs can do to the body, the consequences of getting caught with drugs, and the reason to avoid them would be a much better approach to inform kids about drugs and hopefully prevent them from taking drugs.