Ignoring decades of scientific evidence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week praised an anti-drug program — DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)— straight out of the 1980s “tough on crime” playbook, reports Vox.com. Speaking at a DARE conference, Sessions said, “DARE is, I think, the best remembered anti-drug program today. In recent years, people have not paid much attention to that message, but they are ready to hear it again. … We know it worked before, and we can make it work again.” DARE was largely based on one idea: If you tell kids about how bad drugs are, they will be so scared that they will not use them. The program leveraged this to try to teach kids how to say no to drugs. Different levels of government threw money at DARE, encouraging the majority of school districts around the nation to take it up.
It didn’t work. Decades of research show that DARE was nothing short of a complete disaster, failing to reduce drug use among youth. Even DARE’s own leaders finally acknowledged this after years of denying the evidence, redesigning the curriculum under a new slogan — “keepin’ it REAL” —by 2012 after the overwhelming empirical evidence finally led multiple levels of government to pull back funding for the program. There isn’t much in scientific research that is nearly unanimous. Evaluations of DARE are one of the few exceptions. Time and time again, when researchers carefully studied the program, they found that DARE failed at its most basic purpose: to prevent drug use. Vox several studies to prove its point, including a 1999 Justice Department finding that, “To date, there have been more than 30 evaluations of the program that have documented negligible long-term impacts on teen drug use. One intensive, six-year study even found that the program increased drug use among suburban teens by a small amount.” As Stanford drug policy expert Keith Humphreys tweeted this week, DARE “has been heavily studied and it just doesn’t work, period.”