Overview of the DARE Program

In 1983, the nonprofit organization of Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, was developed as an effort to educate students about gangs, alcohol, and drugs. The curriculum aimed to increase awareness in public school systems about drug usage through emphasizing the negative impacts of “gateway drugs.” By preventing use of these “gateway drugs,” such as tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, the program hoped to stop students’ progression toward harder drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and meth. Overall, the program aspired to decrease the prevalence of drug abuse, violence, and criminal activity in the upcoming generations.

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DRUG ABUSE RESISTANCE EDUCATION                                                                                            Image courtesy of content/uploads/2015/02/DARE.jpg


How Common?

Today, DARE is the primary drug prevention program in the world. Since its birth in 1983, the DARE program has been taught in 75% of U.S. school districts, all 50 U.S. states, and 48 countries across the globe. Approximately 700,000 police officers have administered the program, reaching over 200 million K-12 students worldwide [1].

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With the increasing popularity of the DARE program also came increasing criticism. The original belief was that instilling principles about drugs, alcohol, and violence at a young age would ensure that the principles remained firm throughout years of higher schooling; however, multiples studies have shown just the opposite. Critics point out that the program is crucially flawed in that there has been no significant data proving a lasting impact on graduates of the program. On the other hand, proponents argue that there is an impact, and though the impact is small, it is still relevant to maintain the program. Hence arises the controversy of the DARE program – is it of any long-term benefit to students? Or is it a waste of time and money that produces results exactly opposite of its goals?

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  • The DARE program helps prevent tobacco use in middle and high school students.
    • Those who participated in the program are five times less likely to begin smoking cigarettes than those who did not participate [2].
  • The DARE program improves decision making about drug usage.
    • The decision-making skills and drug knowledge of DARE participants was found to be 6% higher than that of students who did not participate in the program [3].
  • The DARE program improves relationships between youth and police officers.
    • Studies have shown that after the program, students have gained respect for police officers and recognize that they are not the ‘bad guys’ [4].
  • The DARE program was positively received by parents and students alike.
    • In a survey of 5,376 students and 3,095 parents, 95% of the students felt the program had a significant impact on their decision-making processes in the future, and 99% of the parents felt as though the program benefitted their children [5].



  • Instead of decreasing drug use throughout middle and high school, participants of the DARE program may actually be more likely to use drugs.
    • A six-year study of the program found that students who participated had a 3-5% high rate of drug use than those who did not participate [6]. In addition, a different study conducted in 2009 found that alcohol and cigarette usage was 3-4% higher in those who participated in the program compared to those who did not [7].
  • There is no evidence that the DARE program has any positive, lasting impact.
    • Studies have shown that students do not retain the information they learn through the DARE program for more than one or two years [8].
  • The DARE program over-states its message.
    • Students reported that the message delivered by the DARE program was drilled into their heads so often throughout their years at school that the concept virtually lost its significance. 33% of middle school students and 90% of high school students felt that DARE had little to no impact on their decision-making processes regarding drugs [9].
  • The DARE program lures parents into a false state of security.
    • Parents no longer feel a need to talk to their children about the harmful effects of drugs, alcohol, and gangs because they assume that the school system has taken over the matter entirely.
  • Execution of the DARE program is extremely expensive.
    • In 2001, it was estimated that the DARE program took $1-1.3 billion annually to carry out [10].




While it is important to provide education about drugs, alcohol, and violence in our school system, it is also important to regard whether or not this education is being executed successfully. The DARE program was clearly received positively by students and adults alike, and students acknowledged gaining important insight about the harmful effects of drug abuse and criminal activities. However, the information delivered through the program, though valuable, could be considered as ‘in one ear and out the next.’ Students who underwent the program heard and understood the information, but studies have shown that there was no significant impact on their decision-making processes about drug use in the future. There is a definite need for drug, alcohol, and violence education in public school systems for upcoming generations, but the question remains – is DARE really the best solution?

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[1] “Is the D.A.R.E. Program Good for America’s Kids (K-12)?” 2015. Web. <>.

[2] Nasar U. Ahmed, Noushin S. Ahmed, C. Ray Bennett, and Joseph E. Hinds, “Impact of a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) Program in Preventing the Initiation of Cigarette Smoking in Fifth- and Sixth-Grade Students,” Journal of the National Medical Association, Apr. 2002, accessed through

[3] “Study Shows New DARE Program Helps Youths Decide against Using Drugs,” Press Release, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website, Oct. 29, 2002, accessed through

[4] Augustine Hammond, PhD, et al., “Do Adolescents Perceive Police Officers as Credible Instructors of Substance Abuse Prevention Programs?” Health Education Research, Aug. 2008, accessed through

[5] “D.A.R.E.: Drug Abuse Resistance Education: National Client Survey 2007,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Survey,, 2007, accessed through

[6] Dennis Rosenbaum, PhD, and Gordon Hanson, PhD, “Assessing the Effects of School-based Drug Education: A 6-year Multilevel Analysis of Project D.A.R.E.,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Nov. 1998, accessed through

[7] Zili Sloboda, ScD, et al., “The Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Study: A Randomized Field Trial of a Universal Substance Abuse Prevention Program,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Jan. 21, 2009, accessed through

[8] Dennis Rosenbaum, PhD, “Just Say No to D.A.R.E.,” Criminology & Public Policy, Nov. 29, 2007, accessed through

[9] Denise Hamilton, “The Truth about DARE: The Big-Bucks Antidrug Program for Kids Doesn’t Work,” Los Angeles New Times, Mar. 20, 1997, accessed through


  1. This post was extremely relevant to me. This is a topic that was discussed in one of my sociology classes. Personally, I remember being part of the DARE program and to this day I feel like it’s irrelevant to my views on drug and alcohol use. I feel that part of the reason why this program doesn’t really work is because it wasn’t helping children with circumstances back at home such as father absent home or a lack of pro-social values. These are the real factors that predispose children to turn to criminal activity. An article that we read in class also stated that programs that helped children deal with these circumstances was better rather than just giving them information on drugs and alcohol. Were you ever part of the DARE program? What measures do you think could be taken to improve this program?

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