U study suggests DARE needs peer, parent involvement

Dan Haugen

A new study by researchers at the University School of Public Health suggests that the adolescent drug education program D.A.R.E. could be enhanced by greater peer and parent involvement.

DARE – Drug Abuse Resistance Education – was formed in the early 1980s by a former Los Angeles police chief. It is now the dominant drug use prevention curriculum used in the United States.

Working in collaboration with Minnesota DARE, researchers developed a supplemental after-school program called DARE Plus, which involves peer-led extra-curricular activities and homework for students to complete with parents.

Students at 24 schools were surveyed about tobacco, alcohol and drug use as well as violent behavior at the start of seventh grade and the end of eighth grade.

Eight schools used both DARE and DARE Plus programs, eight schools used DARE curriculum and eight used neither program.

“Among boys, those involved in the DARE Plus program were significantly less likely than those in DARE-only schools or the control schools to show the usual increases in tobacco use, alcohol use, multi-drug use and violent behavior,” lead researcher Cheryl Perry said.

According to the study, the DARE Plus program had no significant behavioral effect on girls. Perry said part of the reason might be that there were more male DARE officers than female.

Minnesota DARE Director Kathi Ackerman said DARE Plus needs improvements before it is implemented statewide but that she sees promise in the study’s results.

A growing base of research recently has challenged the effectiveness of DARE programs. Studies at Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina universities have found DARE programs ineffective in preventing drug use.

In response to criticism, Ackerman said DARE programs nationwide have revamped their curriculum nine times since 1983, with the latest coming this summer.

“You need to take those studies and learn from them. We don’t see them as negative. We see them as learning pieces,” Ackerman said.

The University’s research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published Monday in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Dan Haugen covers research and

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