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Yet high-level supporters argue "it's better to have it than not have it"

by Dennis Cauchon
USA TODAY, 11 October 1993

In just 10 years, D.A.R.E. has grown into the USA's No. 1 drug education
program, reaching 5 million fifth-graders in 60% of school districts.
	The Drug Abuse Resistance Education logo -- "D.A.R.E. To Keep Kids
Off Drugs" -- is on bumper stickers, T-shirts, even Kentucky Fried Chicken
boxes.  Police, taxpayers and business give $700 million a year.  It's
also a favorite of dozens of members of Congress.
	But a raft of scientific studies says D.A.R.E., the 17-week course
taught by uniformed police, doesn't achieve its main long-term goal: stopping
kids from smoking pot, drinking booze or using other drugs.
	"I've got nothing against D.A.R.E., but we need to get some white
light on this issue so we can wisely decide how to spend our money and on
what programs," says Tom Colthurst, who recently organized a national
conference on drug education at the University of California-San Diego.
	But D.A.R.E. executive director Glenn Levant calls the studies
flawed and not comprehensive:  "Scientists, will tell you bumble bees
can't fly, but we know they can."
	Levant says a proper national study would cost $3 million-$5 million
and take seven years to finish.
	Studies have focused mostly on specific cities, and cost several
hundred thousand dollars each.
	Experts agree recent research on D.A.R.E. is not perfect: It is
difficult and expensive to measure the behavior of large numbers of
children over several years.
	But they say the research is better than studies on other drug
	"Almost every researcher would agree there's enough information to
judge D.A.R.E.," says Rand Corp. researcher Phyllis Ellickson.
	"It's well-established that D.A.R.E. doesn't work," says Gilbert
Botvin of the Institute for Prevention at Cornell University Medical Center.
	Created in 1983 under the direction of former Los Angeles Police chief
Daryl Gates, D.A.R.E. exploded after the Bush administration gave it heavy
federal subsidies.
	The program uses lectures, role playing and other techniques to teach
children to avoid drugs.
	And by all accounts, the kids who take the course and the police who
teach it think it's terrific.
	D.A.R.E. "does no harm and by far, nothing but good," says Scott
Mandel, a Los Angeles-area teacher.
	"D.A.R.E. really works," says Mike Miller, Round Rock, Texas, police
officer and D.A.R.E. teacher.  "Surveys from across the nation show kids who
take the D.A.R.E. course are much less likely to use drugs later in life."
	That's not what most studies show.
	To investigate D.A.R.E.'s effectiveness, researchers looked at two
similar groups of children:  One group takes D.A.R.E.; the other does not.
Then, researchers followed the children's behavior for several years.
	Since 1987, studies -- most funded by law enforcement agencies involved
in the program -- have been conducted at 20 North Carolina schools; 31
Kentucky schools; 11 South Carolina schools; 36 Illinois schools; and 11
Canadian schools.
	The results were similar.
	The 1991 Kentucky study, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported,
found "no statistically significant differences between experimental groups and
control groups in the percentage of new users of ... cigarettes, smokeless
tobacco, alcohol, marijuana."
	A 1990 study funded by the Canadian government found "D.A.R.E. had no
significant effect on the students' use of any of the substances measured....
They included:  tobacco, beer, pop, marijuana, acid, Valium, wine, aspirin,
uppers, downers, heroin, crack (cocaine), liquor, candy, glue and PCP."
	To make sense of the various studies, the Justice Department hired
the Research Triangle Institute of Durham, N.C., to conduct a statistical
analysis of all D.A.R.E. research.
	A preliminary report from the RTI -- analyzing eight studies involving
9,500 children -- says D.A.R.E. has "a limited to essentially non-existent
effect" on drug use.
	D.A.R.E. did have a positive effect on children's knowledge and 
attitudes about drugs, the report says.  It also added the social skills needed
to say no to drugs.
	But even on these measures, D.A.R.E. didn't do as well as other
drug programs, including local classes taught by teachers and students.
	D.A.R.E. America has launched a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign
against the final RTI report, due in November.
	"We're working with D.A.R.E. to ... voice their concerns," says
Winnie Reed, the National Institute of Justice official overseeing the
	The pressure has angered some academic researchers.
	"It's repugnant, out of line and very unusual," says Dennis Rosenbaum,
director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of
	Rosenbaum -- a D.A.R.E. supporter -- says the group is its own worst
enemy because it has spent so much effort attacking the evaluations, rather
than learning from research.
	Even some state and local D.A.R.E. programs are backing away from
D.A.R.E. America's fight.
	"If we aren't getting the job done, we ought to be man enough to try
something else," says Tim DeRosa of the Illinois state police and long-time
D.A.R.E. activist.
	Some government officials are aware of D.A.R.E.'s shortcomings.
	"Research shows that, no, D.A.R.E. hasn't been effective in reducing
drug use," says William Modzeleski, the top drug official at the Department
of Education.
	The department has considered asking Congress to repeal a law
requiring states to give D.A.R.E. a total of $10 million or more a year
from federal Drug Free Schools money.
	But D.A.R.E. continues to have high-level government support.
	On Sept. 9 -- National D.A.R.E. Day by congressional decree -- D.A.R.E.
officials and students lunched with dozens of Congress members and met
Attorney General Janet Reno.  Later, they visited first lady Hillary Rodham
	Drug czar Lee Brown, who started the program in Houston when he was
police chief, remains a booster.
	"My experience has been positive," Brown says.  "The research has
pointed in many different directions, but my conclusion is it's better to have
it than not have it.  I know first-hand that young people are impressed by
it and look up to the D.A.R.E. officer as a role model."
	Yet many drug education experts fear that D.A.R.E.'s political clout is
siphoning drug education money from better programs.
	"D.A.R.E. has a following and sales force that is extremely powerful
in fighting for scarce resources," says University of Michigan researcher
Lloyd Johnston, who conducts the government's survey of teen drug use.  "But
its growth is totally out of scale to its effectiveness."
	Johnston and others aren't sure why D.A.R.E. isn't working better.
	Some think it targets children too young; some think teachers and
older students get better results than uniformed police; others say the
program relies on psychological theories that don't work.
	Levant thinks critics are just jealous of D.A.R.E.'s success.
	"We're like apple pie," he says.  "But I guess you can always find
someone who doesn't like apple pie."