Ineffective drug programs

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

President Bush has declared this Thursday to be National D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Day. For someone so keen on slashing funding for ineffective social programs, this endorsement of D.A.R.E. is awfully perplexing.

Consider that in January of 2003, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) found “no significant differences in illicit drug use between students who received D.A.R.E. and students who did not.” Even back in 2001, the U.S. Surgeon General allocated D.A.R.E. to the “ineffective programs” category. The Drug Policy Alliance points out that mayors in many major cities—including New York and Los Angeles, have actually removed the program from public schools.

Why is it so ineffective? It’s an abstinence-only program that assumes that the main reason a youngster would use drugs or alcohol is due to rampant peer pressure and drug dealers obsessively pushing their wares on unsuspecting youth. So, D.A.R.E. focuses its curriculum on ways of saying “no,” rather than offering scientific information regarding drug and alcohol usage, or holding an open dialogue on why some people choose to use or misuse drugs and alcohol. Instead of trying to present a “just say no” message in a “hip” way, drug and alcohol education might do well to revolve more around, well, education. A brief look at a government website (linked through the D.A.R.E. website) dissuading middle-schoolers from drinking alcohol reveals the shortcomings. points out that only 18 of 100 kids aged 12-17 drank alcohol in the past month. A creepy Japanime-esque character pops out and declares “Get it? If you choose not to drink, you’re not alone.”

It’s true. But by that same logic, if you choose to drink, you’re also not alone. If we want teenagers to eschew drugs and alcohol, perhaps we should focus less on pounding the work “no” into their psyches and more on how we can equip them with the knowledge to make their own decisions.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend