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APA News Release

August 1, 1999

Contact: David Partenheimer
Public Affairs Office
(202) 336-5706



D.A.R.E. Remains Popular Despite Lack of Documented Effects

Washington - Project D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) may be one of the most popular drug education programs in the country, but a new study finds the program has no long-term effect on drug use. The present study, published in the August issue of the American Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, followed up an earlier study which also found no long-term effect on drug use. However, the new study notes that most kids do not engage in drug use, even without any intervention.

In the study, psychologist Donald R. Lynam, Ph.D., and other researchers at the University of Kentucky tracked over 1,000 Midwestern students who participated in Project D.A.R.E. in the sixth grade. These students were reevaluated at age 20, ten years after receiving the drug prevention education. Although the D.A.R.E. intervention produced a few initial improvements in the students' attitudes toward drug use, the researchers found that these changes did not persist over time. There were no effects in actual drug use initially or during the follow-up period. Dr. Lynam emphasizes that the findings do not mean that nothing should be done to prevent drug use among young people. "Some youth will use drugs and this will likely effect their lives in negative ways. We should try to do something for these youth, but D.A.R.E. is probably not the thing to do," he said.

In the study, the researchers compared pre-D.A.R.E. levels of cigarette, alcohol, marijuana and illicit drug use of the students to such use at age 20. For each drug category, participants were asked to report how often they had used the substance in their lifetime, during the past year, and during the past month, along with a variety of questions concerning their expectancies about drug use. Pre-and post-D.A.R.E. levels of peer-pressure resistance and self-esteem were also compared. The results indicate that D.A.R.E. had no significant positive effect. In a totally unexpected finding, those students exposed to the D.A.R.E. program in the sixth grade had lower levels of self-esteem ten years later. However, the researchers say that finding cannot be accounted for theoretically and is most likely a chance finding that is unlikely to be replicated.

So why does D.A.R.E. remain so popular with parents and school personnel despite its lack of demonstrated efficacy? The researchers offer two possible answers. "First, teaching children to refrain from drug use is a widely accepted approach with which few individuals would argue. Thus, similar to other such interventions, such as the 'good touch/bad touch' programs to prevent sexual abuse, these 'feel-good' programs are ones that everyone can support, and critical examination of their effectiveness may not be perceived as necessary." The study's authors say the second possible explanation for the popularity of programs such as D.A.R.E. is that they appear to work. Adults rightly perceive that most children who go through D.A.R.E. do not engage in drug use, not realizing that the vast majority of children, even without any intervention, do not engage in drug use.

Dr. Lynam says some other drug education programs offered in schools have shown some effect in preventing drug use, but the results are neither strong nor long lasting. "It may be unrealistic to expect any universal program to be effective," he said. "Not all kids are at risk; maybe we can do better with more intensive and targeted interventions."

Article: "Project DARE: No Effects at 10-Year Follow-Up," Donald R. Lynam, Ph.D., Richard Milich, Ph.D., Rick Zimmerman, Ph.D., Scott P. Novak, T.K. Logan, Ph.D., Catherine Martin, Carl Leukefeld, DSW, and Richard Clayton, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 67, No. 4. Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at http://www.apa.org/journals/ccp/ccp674590.html.


Donald R. Lynam, Ph.D., can be reached at (606) 257-8662 or email DLYNA1@POP.UKY.EDU



The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

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