busted: america's war on marijuana
FRONTLINE INTERVIEW WITH MARK KLEIMAN regarding the  D.A.R.E. program. Kleiman is professor at the School of Public Policy and Social Research, University of California, L.A.  He recently joined a group of scientists, drug experts and public officials in proposing a new middle-of-the-road approach to America's drug policy. Interview conducted in the winter of 1997-98.  Click here for the full interview with Kleiman

What about D.A.R.E.?


D.A.R.E. is a wonderful tool for police-community relations, particularly, in poor neighborhoods. Getting poor kids to meet a police officer, and getting a police officer to meet poor kids, on a civil, friendly basis, is a wonderful thing to do. Police officers love it, and police departments love it, and neighborhoods love it, and kids love it and parents love it and everybody loves it.

What D.A.R.E. is not, is a complete drug prevention program. In fact, the evaluations have been pretty, uniformly discouraging. It's very hard to see any evidence that kids who go through D.A.R.E. are better off in terms of their marijuana use, alcohol use, nicotine use, in middle school, than the non-D.A.R.E. kids. One study just came out suggesting there may be some delayed sleeper effect on the use of harder drugs--cocaine, heroin, inhalants. That may be true. You want to see if that can be replicated.

So I think D.A.R.E. is a fine thing to do. I don't think D.A.R.E. is an adequate thing to do in place of doing real drug education. I think we need a much more comprehensive program and those programs are expensive--the ones that work. I think there's a good argument for focusing less on drugs and doing more education at younger ages. You don't really talk to second graders about drugs, but you can talk to second graders about the problem of impulsiveness. You can talk to second graders about their health, as something that they want to maintain, and about a class of health-risk behaviors, that threaten it.

So if you can get them in the mind-set of being good stewards of their own bodies, then, later you can start talking about the details, about illicit drugs, about alcohol, about nicotine, about sex, about inadequate exercise, about bad eating habits, about all of the other things that are bad for you. But, I think, given the lack of evidence that we really know how to deliver effective drug education, I think we're going to start delivering a broader health risk message younger, and see if that works.

There are good pilot programs, there are training programs you could do for grade school teachers, intervening, not around drug use, but around problem behavior, on kids who act out in class. And that kids whose teachers have had that training are much less likely to start smoking when they hit the sixth grade, than, kids whose teachers haven't had that training.

Now if that's true, if you can replicate that experimentally, and here's the harder problem, if you can replicate it at scale. If you can get it done by first-grade teachers around the country, then you can maybe have a big impact.

We need to make drug education less an ideological effort and more [of] a practical effort. Right now, any drug education program that delivers strong anti-drug messages is perfectly satisfactory to people who insist on anti-drug education.

In fact, what you find from the media partnerships ads is they have very little impact on the behavior of drug users. They strengthen the anti-drug attitudes of non-users. Well, if you think about it, who designs them? Who gets them on TV? Who pays for them? Who evaluates them? People who have strong anti-drug attitudes! And so you can have a phenomenon of preaching very successfully to the choir and missing the sinners.


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