DARE refers to Drug Abuse Resistance Education which is an international program aimed at preventing drugs and substance abuse, gang memberships and violence. This program was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles by the Unified School District and chief Daryl Gates as a side drug control mechanism due to the war on Drugs by the United States government. The program was designed to last for a period of seventeen weeks and involved students in the program pledging to refrain from drug and substance abuse, violent behavior or joining of illegal gangs. The seventeen weeks contained different lessons that lasts for 45 minutes to one hour. Further, the local police officers are involved in the initiative of sensitizing the students on the dangers of drug and substance abuse. However, the program has seen major challenges from its inception, in 2002, the government had publicized a report discrediting the programs’ effectiveness thus resulting in a drop of the American revenue received from the program from about $ 10 million in 2002 to $ 3 million in 2010 (The D.A.R.E. Program).
In mitigation, D.A.R.E designed a new curriculum which is primarily centered on the work by Arizona State and Penn State researchers. However, the program has also celebrated some success stories including its expansion from the United States to Great Britain in 1995. The American headquarters of D.A.R.E is in California (Inglewood). The success story of D.A.R.E partially stems from their information systems which include children being handed in with questionnaires and asked to grant information to the police regarding drug and substance abuse, gang membership or violent behavior that they find unusual or surprising in their homes. This is an addition to the effectiveness of the systems implemented by D.A.R.E since the resistance to substance abuse, violent behavior and gang membership starts with children and further, children are used as informants. The program has been successful in promoting a drug free America and the children who join the program have reaped the benefits of sobriety and non-violent campaigns fostered by the program.
The program aims at equipping adolescents with life skills and to boost their self-esteem to say no to drugs and to make known to them the repercussions of drug and substance abuse. Central to the drug and substance abuse lessons, such a system aims at sensitizing the adolescents to exercise restraint from peer pressure that might result in the taking of drugs to please peers and to have a feeling of belonging. D.A.R.E is a program that involves major stakeholders in its operations. For example, the congress passed an Act called Drug – Free Schools and Communities Act in a bid to promote drug prevention programs in the country and education on drug abuse. In 1994, D.A.R.E had achieved its expansion program from Los Angeles to fifty states in the United States and including six more foreign countries who joined the program. The initial design was meant for elementary school students (5th and 6th grades), however, the curriculum has been developed to incorporate both the middle and students from high school. At the onset of the program, the focus was inoculating students so that they can overcome the peer pressure that comes with the urge to experiment with drugs.
Actual working of the program (D.A.R.E)
Drug Abuse and Resistance Education program is implemented in close to 80% of the total number of districts in the United States alone. The program has since expanded to 54 other countries globally handling a total student population (membership) of around 36, 000,000 students each year. The program has been very instrumental in reducing drug and substance abuse among minors not only in the United States, but also, in other foreign countries in the entire world. Therefore, the program is very effective(Lucas 33).
In its operation, D.A.R.E incorporates the social influence approach to curb drug and substance abuse. This is a psychological approach that is aimed at strengthening the refusal skills of children for the purposes of refraining from drugs and opposing negative peer influence to take drugs. Moreover, the effect of the program is the delay or totally doing away with drug use by adolescents by building some forms of social competencies. The placing of the program in elementary school was constructive in that it targeted the students before they got influenced to experiment with the drugs and offset such a possibility through character enhancement and building on a child’s esteem. The officers of D.A.R.E are offered with meticulous training involving 80 hours in classroom management, information on drugs, clarity in communication/ communication skills, the development of adolescents and in-depth instruction on the 17 lessons of the program. These are therefore professionals with the ability to deliver.
Theory used in D.A.R.E program
The theory that best describes the program is The Resilience Approach Theory. This is because the approach is aimed at identifying the factors that place young people at risk or vulnerable to the risk factors such as delinquency, drug abuse and all kinds of mental complications. However, research has identified that several children who are exposed to several risk factors develop into competent adults. Of more interest is the fact that, research has expounded into bouncing back and identifying the protective factors that usurp the effect of the risks that young people go through. The aim is to mitigate the challenges that the risk factors pose to the children and come up with reasons why some children are more resilient than others.
The D.A.R.E program uses this approach because it focuses on the identification of the age group of children most vulnerable to experiment with drugs and those predisposed to trying out drugs. The program therefore focuses on equipping such children with knowledge on drug and substance abuse and building their esteem to resist the urge to get influenced or succumb to peer influence. The focus of the resiliency approach is primarily on individual resources and strength. In refraining from drug and substance abuse, the individuals’ resilience is the greatest determinant of success. In Alcoholics Anonymous, addicts are taught to always avoid the first drink and this component of Alcoholics Anonymous is primarily based on resilience(David 69).
Prevention strategies used in the D.A.R.E program
There are three prevention strategies of drugs used in Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. The first strategy is by improving the skills of the students. This involves providing information to the youngsters of the dangers of drug and substance abuse and boosting their esteem to resist the chances of being convinced by their peers to engage in drug abuse. This is constructive in preventing drug abuse because the children are equipped with knowledge as well as information on the dangers of drug and substance abuse(Gorman and Huber).
Secondly, the provision of support to children in the program also proves significant as another strategy. This is in terms of provision of advice against the drug use and the enhancement of the self-esteem of the child to facilitate understanding of peer pressure and its diverse effects. Finally, the last strategy is the change of access and barriers. The program aims at relieving the students from peer pressure. Therefore, the program preaches against drug and substance abuse and also bad peer influence that is more likely to encourage children to engage in gross misconduct leading to joining gangs, participating in violence behavior or drug abuse which is in contradiction with the law placing them vulnerable to judicial action.
Material available for assessment of the program
The available materials for assessment of the D.A.R.E Program are such as the logistic regression adjusted odds ratios. This has shown that D.A.R.E lacks a significant influence on the drug use of children and students in general. Moreover, the soundness of the strategies implemented by D.A.R.E had no results on students already initiated into alcohol. However, D.A.R.E had its score points on the attitude of the children on drug and substance abuse and high self-esteem realized on children who had gone through the program.
Other methods of analyzing the effect of D.A.R.E is through a report by world health organizations in partnership with NACADA on the number of children who engage in substance and drug abuse well after the implementation of D.A.R.E in schools. Moreover, the schools could compare the performance of the students who are in the D.A.R.E program in comparison to a time when they were never in the program.
However, following the report of the ineffectiveness of D.A.R.E as a drug and substance abuse prevention program for children, the United States Department of Education has prohibited schools from spending their funding on Drug Abuse Resistance Education on the premise that the program is ineffective in reducing drug and substance abuse.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education has been an effective program through the years. The building of self-esteem of children coupled with teaching them on the dangers of drug and substance abuse is very instrumental in fostering a drug free school program. Therefore, though the United States Department of Education has its misgivings on the credibility of D.A.R.E as an anti-drug and substance abuse control program, I do believe that the program has been effective in part. The challenge has been the maintenance of a similar curriculum of the program since familiarity has bred contempt. The design of the system should change given that the world is developing therefore, the demands of the children in this generation is different from the previous and vice versa. Therefore, modifications in the program would make it more effective.
David J. Hanson, Ph.D. “Drug Abuse Resistance Education: The Effectiveness of DARE”. Alcoholfacts.org. n.p., 2016. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.
Gorman, D. M., and J. C. Huber. “The Social Construction Of “Evidence-Based” Drug Prevention Programs: A Reanalysis Of Data From The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Program”. Evaluation Review 33.4, 2009. 396-414. Web.
Lucas, Wayne. “Parents’ Perceptions Of The Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE)”. WCAS 17.4, 2008. 99-114. Web.
The D.A.R.E. Program. [Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, 1994. Print.