There is a general consensus in America that “the more you know, the better you do.” When it comes to the addiction epidemic in the U.S., the public, medical professionals and addiction specialists agree that education is one of the keys to stemming drug abuse. The general feeling is that knowledge of the ill effects of drug abuse can prevent addiction. In other words, the more Americans know about drugs, the less likely they are to consume them. But is this true?
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (D.A.R.E) annually serves millions of school children from kindergarten through 12th grade.1 The mission of this school-based program is to teach children the skills needed to avoid experimenting with drugs, to identify bullying, stay safe on the internet, resist peer pressure and live life free from violence. Founded in 1983 in Los Angeles, D.A.R.E. has been implemented in 75 percent of schools nationally and has a presence in over 43 countries worldwide. The classes are led by police officers, and at its inception, it was the first program of its kind. To ensure that the program continues to remain responsive to the needs of children, D.A.R.E. includes a youth advisory board.1
The program, in its original format, was taught by police, which gave officers, parents, teachers and students and opportunity to connect. However, the curriculum was focused only on learning about drugs and why not to try them. Many studies in the years since the program’s inception have found that particular approach to drug awareness education to be largely ineffective. That’s not to say that D.A.R.E. had no impact, but all-important drug education dollars needed to be spent on programs with a more proven track record, so many schools chose to discontinue the D.A.R.E. program in favor of more choice-oriented and behavior-focused programs. Some of these programs include the following:
- ProjectAlert.com- This free program addresses the pro-drug mindset of today’s teens and is designed to cultivate new non-use attitudes and provide 7th and 8th graders with the tools they need to resist drug experimentation.2
- Life Skills Training- This program, founded in the 1970s, this program uses interactive learning, social-skills building, and drug-use-prevention-related information to promote and develop self-management skills such as decision making, problem solving, goal setting, and coping with anxiety in healthy ways.3
- National Institute on Drug Abuse- The NIDA provides free classroom resources, including lesson plans, videos and worksheets to help teachers develop programs geared for the students in their classrooms.4
Taking a cue from newer programs and those that have a proven track record of success, D.A.R.E. America has developed a new curriculum focused on healthy decision-making rather than on drugs. The Keepin’ It Real program replaces drug-fact heavy sessions with interactive lessons focused on giving kids the tools to make smart choices. Starting in 2009, D.A.R.E administrators required all D.A.R.E. required all middle schools using their program to switch to the new 10-week format for 7th graders. By 2013, elementary schools were switched to a 5th and 6th grade version of the program. Early trials show that this program is already having an impact on students by reducing substance abuse and increasing anti-drug attitudes in among teenagers across the country.5
Drugs and Staying in School
Along with specific programs to help keep teens from experimenting with drugs and alcohol, graduating from high schools appears to be a natural substance abuse deterrent. In a 2013 report, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that students who are old enough to be in 12th grade but have dropped out of school have higher substance abuse rates than students who are currently enrolled. Dropouts that are between the ages of 16 and 18 are more than twice as likely to use cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol and other illicit drugs.6
Overall, more than 30 percent of students who dropped out of high school use drugs compared to 18 percent of those who stay in school. The use of drugs also has a tremendous impact on college completion. A 2013 study published by the National Institutes of Health found that students who used marijuana and other drugs regularly had a significantly higher rate of leaving college before graduation than those who used drugs occasionally or not at all.7
Finding Help for Substance Abuse
The good news about getting an education is it’s always possible to go back. No matter where you are on your recovery journey, finishing your education is a reachable goal. And if you or a loved one struggle with substance abuse and you’ve never reached out for help, now is the time. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about treatment options. Call our toll-free helpline now.
1 “D.A.R.E.” D.A.R.E. America. Accessed 23 February 2018.
2 “Substance abuse prevention for grades 7 & 8.” Project ALERT. Accessed 23 February 2018.
3 “Life Skills Training (LST).” Child Trends. Accessed 23 February 2018.
4 “Teachers: Classroom Resources on Drugs and Their Effects.” NIDA for Teens. Accessed 23 February 2018.
5 Nordrum, Amy. “The New D.A.R.E. Program-This One Works.” Scientific American, 10 Sept. 2014.
6 “Substance Use in 12th Grade Dropouts Greater Than in Teens Who Stay in School.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids – Where Families Find Answers. Accessed 23 February 2018.
7 Arria, Amelia M., et al. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Rutgers University. Jan. 2013.