D.A.R.E. or Drug Abuse Resistance Education states that, “The mission of D.A.R.E. America is ‘teaching students, kindergarten through 12th grade, good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives.’ Our vision is a world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors.”
As someone who grew up with the D.A.R.E. program being taught in our schools I was told to “just say no”. I had the black t-shirt with the red D.A.R.E. written across it and everything. But honestly what elementary school child is introduced to drugs and alcohol at that young of an age? The program had a scared-straight approach that appealed to those who were not addicts. The biggest thing that sticks out to me was the emphasis on just saying no. We practiced saying, “No”. There was a really big emphasis on abstinence. We were never shown the reality of drugs and alcohol. All we saw a black lung and a liver with cirrhosis, but the effects it has on your life were completely skipped over.
I wasn’t exposed to drugs or alcohol until my freshman year of high school. I did just say no until my junior year of high school but it was definitely not because the words of D.A.R.E. were ringing in my head telling me to “just say no”. Honestly I had forgotten completely about this program when I entered middle school and could not tell you a single thing that I learned in the program. I drank and started to experiment with prescription medications at the age of 16. Drugs and alcohol filled the gaping hole inside me and I finally felt like I belonged. I ran with the bad crowd for a while and barely graduated high school. Once I turned 18 I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. I quickly became addicted and dependent on prescription painkillers. My habit became very expensive and consumed my entire life.
One night I could not find anyone to get pills from, but one of my friends had heroin. I was desperate and already sick from opiate withdrawals. That night I became a iv heroin user. Nobody could stop me. I did what I wanted. I ditched friends and family who objected to my use and made new friends who I could get drugs from or who could help me find them. I had put myself in numerous dangerous situations and had countless interventions and dangerous experiences.
The Denver Post reports that although D.A.R.E. got a modern makeover, Denver schools aren’t convinced it works. “The D.A.R.E. brand is toxic,” said Andrew Freedman, former director of Marijuana Coordination for the State of Colorado, which set up the regulatory framework for the state’s pot industry. Freedman is also leading the Youth Marijuana Prevention Council, a drug-abuse prevention group. “I know D.A.R.E. strikes a nostalgic chord for a lot of adults, certainly adults of a certain generation,” said Freedman. “But what works with kids is not the same message.”
Students who went through D.A.R.E. weren’t any less likely to do drugs than the students who didn’t. In fact, there’s some well-regarded research that some groups of students were actually more likely to do drugs if they went through D.A.R.E. Scientists knew D.A.R.E. was ineffective relatively early on, but the program grew anyways. The program’s eventual reform was the result of a long and hard battle between evidence-based research, and popular opinion.
While the main goal of the DARE Program is amenable, in today’s society, it seems to have little or no lasting effects. Instead of focusing on ways to revamp Just Say No campaigns, a better idea would be to teach children how to identify their feelings in this mixed up world, or how to communicate effectively with their parents and guardians to keep an open line of trust and understanding in the household.
What got me sober was when I finally surrendered and was ready to receive help. Addiction had brought me to my knees. It was not the D.A.R.E. program that saved me. I entered an opiate detox center, then completed a 30 day inpatient program, and continued care when I was discharged in a intensive outpatient treatment center. It was here that I learned about the disease of addiction. Through intensive therapy and work I was able to heal and learn to live the healthy, happy, and sober life I have today!
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
MS- Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis
B.Ed.- Bachelors in Elementary Education
Crystal Hampton is a 37 year old avid writer from South Florida. She loves snuggling with her teacup Yorkie Gator and boyfriend Adam. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.