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How Effective Is Drug Abuse Resistance Education?
A Meta-Analysis of Project DARE Outcome Evaluations

Susan T. Ennett PhD, Nancy S. Tobler, MS, PhD., Christopher L.
Ringwalt, DrPH and Robert L. Flewelling, PhD
American Journal of Public Health September 1994, Vol.84. No.91394

Objectives. Project DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Fducation) is the most widely used school-based drug use prevention program in the United States, but the findings of rigorous evaluations of its effectiveness have not been considered collectively.

Methods. We used mets-analytic techniques to review eight methodologically rigorous DARE evaluations. Weighted effect size means for several short-term outcomes also were compared with means reported for other drug use prevention programs.

Results. The DARE effect size for drug use behavior ranged from .00 to .11 across the eight studies; the weighted mean for drug use across studies was .06. For all outcomes considered, the DARE effect size means were substantially smaller than those of programs emphasizing social and general competencies and using interactive teaching strategies.

Conclusions. DARE's short-term effectiveness for reducing or preventing drug use behavior is small and is less than for interactive prevention programs. (Am J Public Health 1994;84:1394-1401)

School-based drug use prevention programs have been an integral part of the US antidrug campaign for the past two decades. Although programs have proliferated, none is more prevalent than Project DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Created in 1983 by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District, DARE uses specially trained law enforcement officers to teach a drug use prevention curriculum in elementary schools and, more recently, in junior and senior high schools. Since its inception, DARE has been adopted by approximately 30% of local school districts nationwide, and it continues to spread rapidly. DARE is the only drug use prevention program specifically named in the 1986 Drug-Free School and Communities Act. Some 10% of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act governors' funds, which are 30% of the funds available each fiscal year for state and local programs, are set aside to programs "such as Project Drug Abuse Resistance Education," amounting to much of the program's public funding.

Given its widespread use and the considerable investment of government dollars, school time, and law enforcement effort, it is important to know whether DARE is an effective drug use prevention program. That is, to what extent does DARE meet its curriculum objective most prorninently "to keep kids off drugs"

DARE's core curriculum, offered to pupils in the last grades of etementary school, is the heart of DARE's program and the focus of this study. We evaluate here the core curriculum's short-term effectiveness by using meta-analytic techniques to integrate the evaluation findings of several studies. We searched for all DARE evaluations, both published and unpublished, conducted over the past 10 years and selected for further review those studies that met specified methodological criteria. We calculated effect sizes as a method for establishing a comparable effectiveness measure across studies. In addition, to put DARE in context of other school-based drug use prevention programs, we compared the average magnitude of the DARE effect sizes with those of other programs that target young people of a similar age.

DARE's Core Curriculum
The DARE core curriculum's 17 lessons, usually offered once a week for 45 to 60 minutes, focus on teaching pupils the skills needed to recognize and resist social pressures to use drugs. In addition, lessons focus on providing information about drugs, teaching decision-making skills, building self-esteem, and choosing healthy alternatives to drug use.

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