- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 10, 2000

Apple pie, motherhood, baseball and DARE quite frankly all deserve defending. Drug prevention in general, and DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in particular, have recently become targets of choice for those who doubt prevention, doubt DARE and propose, ever so subtly, to edge the nation toward the legalization of dangerous Schedule I narcotics. No course would be more morally, physically and spiritually destructive to America's next generation than choosing drug legalization over common-sense, fact-based education, such as that promoted by the revised DARE America curriculum.
While drug use rose markedly between 1992 and 1997, the causes for this were complex. Drug prevention funding and its defense before Congress often took a back seat; supply reduction efforts were cut by hundreds of millions of dollars, effectively increasingly the load borne by law enforcement, teachers, parents, treatment professionals and those fighting illegal drugs domestically; and dangerous new drugs arrived on the scene, including Colombian heroin (smokable and 10 times more pure than in the 1980s), Californian methamphetamine (which began to appear in young bodies across hospital emergency rooms and morgues), GHB, high-purity cocaine and marijuana, LSD and ecstasy. None of this was DARE's doing.
In fact, DARE and drug prevention efforts that have followed the DARE model, have been responsible for the turn around in "new initiation rates" that materialized in 1998 and 1999. Specifically, while the 18-to-25 age cohort (no 1onger in contact with fact-laden DARE officers, dedicated teachers and parents) has suffered a 28 percent increase in current use between 1997 and 1999, youth users of marijuana fell by 2.3 million between 1997 and 1998 (11 percent overall), and the average age of first use rose for the fifth straight year in 1998. At the same time, for kids ages 12 to 17, not only did overall drug use fall by more than 20 percent between 1997 and 1999, but current use of marijuana fell by 26 percent in the same period. According to White House Drug Control Policy Director Barry McCaffrey, this "remarkable success" is due, in no small measure, to "the DARE program." Congress, too, understands this lesson.
Objective indicators of success for drug prevention broadly, and DARE specifically, are mounting. DARE works increasingly with parents and middle school students. Hard numbers show these strategies are bearing fruit. In 1999, 45 percent of teens who reported no discussions with their parents about the dangers of drug use, ended up using drugs. At the same time, parents who spoke to their teens a little about these dangers created sufficient reflection in their teens that only 33 percent used. Of those teens who learned a lot from parents about drug use, only 26 percent used. DARE now offers a panoply of information to parents.
This year, DARE, which boasts an in-school curriculum updated six times since 1997, to reflect societywide changes in youth violence and available drugs, has innovated at the middle school and parent levels, expanded training of law officers at five regional centers, created a web presence, and will train if fully funded more than 1,000 new law officers (for more than 80 hours each) to deliver no-nonsense facts and resistance skills, and to serve as living role models, in every middle school in America, or so far as funding reaches.
Extensive research with scientifically sound control groups strongly supports the drug prevention efforts of groups like DARE.
One recent study cited to criticize DARE, the so-called Kentucky study, was subsequently condemned for having no real control group and turning on an out-of-date curriculum. At the same time, studies in two other states, respectively involving 3,200 subjects in 33 schools (Ohio) and 2,500 students from 14 communities (Pennsylvania), both conducted by Ohio State, produced overwhelmingly positive findings as to DARE's impact on kids' attitudes and behavior they were more resistant to both drug use and violence.
While no study is flawless, the bulk of research strongly indicates teaching these lessons is far smarter than not teaching them. In combination with parent and role model reinforcement, DARE may be the best hope against the current trend toward disinformation and indifference.
Speaking bluntly, efforts to indict DARE are shorthand for minimizing drug prevention. This is the stated mission of many who wish to run down DARE's efforts and the entire drug prevention renaissance. In fact, no need is greater than to teach our children the basic dangers of these increasingly available drugs. That responsibility lies with parents and teachers, young people and members of Congress who should step up to rebut the legalization of dangerous Schedule I narcotics and unabashedly support such sound programs as DARE.
Contrary to the well-funded detractors from right-wrong no-use anti-drug education, there is plenty of danger in not teaching the lessons DARE has effectively brought to kids and parents.
Today, DARE is taught in more than 80 percent of all school districts and reaches 26 million students in more than 300,000 class rooms each year. This is a blessing worth counting. Like motherhood, apple pie and baseball, nothing good is without some controversy, but let's be clear: As a sage once noted, all it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to be silent. And that is why there should be a chorus of voices rebutting the detractors of sound drug prevention, defending DARE and stopping the deceivers who recklessly promote narcotics legalization.


Robert Charles was chief staffer to the Speaker's Task Force on A Drug Free America (1997-1999), and chief counsel and chief of staff to the U.S. House National Security Subcommittee of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee (1995-1999). He cur

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