Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2003
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2003, The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Re: Patricia Kochel's March 2 commentary, "Drug education should begin at 

Ms. Kochel's commentary offered excellent advice on preventing adolescent 
drug use. The importance of parental involvement in reducing drug use 
cannot be overstated. School-based extracurricular activities also have 
been shown to reduce drug use. They keep kids busy during the hours they're 
most likely to get into trouble.

In order for drug prevention efforts to reduce drug-related harm, they must 
be reality-based. The most popular drug and the one most closely associated 
with violent behavior is often overlooked by parents. That drug is alcohol, 
and it takes far more lives each year than all illegal drugs combined. 
Alcohol may be legal, but it's still the No. 1 drug problem.

For decades, school-based drug prevention efforts have been dominated by 
sensationalist programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Good 
intentions are no substitute for effective drug education. Independent 
evaluations of D.A.R.E. have found the program to be either ineffective or 
counterproductive. The scare tactics used do more harm than good. Students 
who realize they've been lied to about marijuana often make the mistake of 
assuming that harder drugs such as methamphetamine are relatively harmless 
as well. This is a recipe for disaster.

Drug-prevention programs must be reality-based, or they may backfire when 
kids are inevitably exposed to drug use among their peers.

A 2003 General Accounting Office overview of D.A.R.E. can be found at:

Robert Sharpe, MPA, Program officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Arlington, Va.
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