Are Programs Like S.A.D.D. and D.A.R.E. Effective?
With desperation mounting in the search for effective ways to end substance abuse in the U.S., parents are desperate for ways to prevent their children from wandering down a dangerous and potentially deadly road. Since October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, now is the time for parent, grandparents, and families in general to learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
However many parents depend on the school systems to provide most of their child’s education. They want a thorough education for their children, yet some also criticize the methods used for non-core education programs such as sex education and D.A.R.E and S.A.D.D. Heavily conservative or religious communities are especially against traditional methods of education on these controversial subjects.
Today’s school systems are suffering under the strains of tremendous demands from their communities combined with continually thinned financial resources. Often the first areas of the school’s curriculum to feel these effects are extracurricular programs, electives, and additive programs such as D.A.R.E. and S.A.D.D., which in many states is voluntary.
So with the obstacles these substance abuse prevention courses face, are programs like S.A.D.D and D.A.R.E. effective? Well, it depends on who you ask.
The most recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse note that the most effective programs are specific to the community needs and includes reinforcement from parents and caregivers. Studies that followed children from the initial drug prevention course through to adulthood found that programs like D.A.R.E and S.A.D.D. have little effect alone. But why?
Unfortunately, because of political and social pressures, substance abuse prevention programs focuses less on providing genuine information and more on discouragement tactics. Rather than informing students of the real and severe possible side effects of various drugs and alcohol, educators use guilt and fear to dissuade impressionable children.
Unfortunately this is not effective in the long run. Fear can lead to curiosity in later years. Teenage rebellion can turn into drug abuse and the development of addiction out of spite for the rules set forth in childhood. Learning later in life that statements presented as facts by drug prevention programs may not be 100 percent true can consequently lead to the belief that drugs and alcohol aren’t as dangerous as they were taught. Learning to stigmatize drug abuse in early life and having that ideal socially reinforced leads to adults with substance abuse disorders too ashamed or unable to seek help.
With the recent shift in political attention to drug law reform and seeking new ways to combat addiction in this country, some bold politicians and spokespeople have declared drug abuse prevention programs in schools completely ineffective- that’s not true, either. The reality is we need substance abuse prevention education in schools. In fact, we need more of it. We need courses that provide true and unbiased information about the effects and consequences of substance abuse as well as promotion of open conversation regarding the topic. Above all, we need parents who are more involved at all levels to help ensure new generations don’t become victims because we didn’t do enough to stop it.
What kind of programs does your child’s school offer from substance abuse prevention education? What kinds of changes would you like to see to make those programs more effective?
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.