The Drug Policy Alliance supports reality-based youth drug education that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of young people. Abstinence-only drug education programs, like D.A.R.E., have perpetuated drug myths without providing students with the tools they need to make safe decisions or to identify and seek support when and if problems with alcohol and other drugs occur.
We encourage parents and educators to abandon failed anti-drug programs based on scare tactics, misinformation and zero-tolerance policies, and instead focus on engaging youth in frank and honest discussions about drugs and the risks associated with drug use. Effective drug education requires an interactive environment in which students feel free to ask questions and raise concerns, without fear of punishment. When schools identify students with substance use problems, they should provide special assistance and counseling to these young people and engage them in restorative practices instead of expulsion or suspension.
In addition to ineffective school-based drug education programs, the federal government has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on sensationalized, often laughable, anti-drug media campaigns that have failed entirely to curb youth drug use. The government’s own studies show that young people who have seen the ads are more likely to try drugs than those who haven’t seen the ads. We believe the federal government should stop wasting tax dollars on fear-based anti-drug advertising campaigns and instead channel resources into providing young people with honest information about safety, risk and treatment.