To the editor:
The D.A.R.E. program has been around for nearly 40 years and every single efficacy study performed on the program has indicated that it is a massive failure. Yet counties across the country have continued to fund the program, in spite of that fact. The program has lost most of its federal funding as a result of these studies. Instead of curbing drug use among teens, some research has suggested the D.A.R.E. program has inadvertently encouraged curiosity about drugs. As a member of the community and a parent of three young children, I was shocked to see the amount of money the 2020 Shelby County budget has invested in a program that has done nothing but fail communities for nearly 40 years.
I remember the fear mongering that took place in D.A.R.E. classes while I was a student at Sidney. We were told our teeth would fall out, our skin would wrinkle prematurely, and that we would ultimately end up addicted to heroin if we smoked marijuana or drank alcohol. — Some us believed that until we heard even President Obama had smoked pot, or when we saw a group of teachers sipping margaritas at Applebee’s on a Tuesday night, or when medical and recreational marijuana started becoming more widespread across the nation. These harmful stigmas made some of us more critical and judgmental of our peers, while some of us started to question the legitimacy of what we were being taught.
We need to employ an approach that demonstrates a realistic portrayal of alcohol and drugs. Some communities are now focusing on harm reduction strategies in schools. Harm reduction programs focus on minimizing risk if individuals choose to experiment with substances, but still maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol is the safest and healthiest choice for young people. They also don’t stereotype substance users or use a facade of scare tactics that will crumble the first time a student drinks a beer or smokes a joint. Sensationalizing the truth may lead young people to become less trusting of our judgment and more inclined to try it for themselves. We need to make sure our strategies are emulating the real world as much as possible because the more that we sensationalize and stretch the truth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the more we run the risk of losing credibility among the youth in our community.