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Does D.A.R.E. Make A Difference In Students' Attitudes And Behavior In The Use Of Alcohol And Drugs?
To answer this question, eleventh grade students were selected as the study population because they were old enough to have been confronted with opportunities to use alcohol, marijuana and hard drugs. Also, some students of this age would have had the opportunity to participate in the D.A.R.E. program at the elementary, junior high and senior high levels. Altogether, 3,150 11th grade students participated in this statewide assessment of D.A.R.E., funded by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. Results from this research showed that D.A.R.E. does make a positive difference.
The basic questionnaire consisted of a well-tested instrument developed by the American Drug and Alcohol Survey of the Rocky Mountain Behavioral Sciences Institute at Fort Collins, Colorado. More than 1,200 schools had previously used this instrument. A special insert was developed in order to examine issues pertinent to prevention education programs.
DRUG USE AMONG 11th GRADE STUDENTS
Students were classified into three risk groups. Low risk includes students who have never used drugs or alcohol, those who rarely drink, and those who had experimented with substances once or twice but not recently. Students who used alcohol on a more frequent basis, or used marijuana on an occasional, but not on a regular basis, were classified as moderate risk. Finally, high risk students were those who are heavy alcohol users or regular users of other drugs.
As shown in Table 1, students who had two or three D.A.R.E. classes (elementary, junior high and/or high school) were significantly more likely to be in the low risk group and conversely, less likely to be in the moderate and high risk categories. Students with only one exposure to D.A.R.E. were also more likely to be in the low risk group than students who had never attended D.A.R.E. classes. Students with no D.A.R.E. classes were less likely to be in the low risk group. In other words, they were more often in the higher risk groups. These results strongly suggest D.A.R.E. does reduce substance use.
*PERCENTAGES DO NOT ADD UP TO 100% DUE TO ROUNDING.
Research has shown that the most direct and influential link to alcohol and drug use among young people is the peer group, especially close friends. If adolescents associate with close peers who discourage substance use, they are much less likely to use alcohol and drugs themselves. If adolescents associate with close peers who encourage substance use, they are much more likely to use alcohol and drugs. DARE strengthens peer associations that discourage substance use and increase resistance to peers who encourage it.
LEARNING ABOUT THE DANGERS OF DRUGS
DARE urges students to talk with their families about the dangers associated with different drugs. Eleventh graders with DARE training were more likely to discuss these dangers with their parents than non-DARE students.
Beyond parents and peers, students can learn about substances from other sources. As expected, DARE officers were by far the primary source in DARE schools. But the significant finding here is that students who had DARE training more often sought out other school professionals for information about drugs and alcohol than non-DARE students.
DARE OFFICERS AT SCHOOL
One of the additional benefits of the DARE program is the opportunity for students to interact with police officers in a positive environment. DARE officers spend additional time at the schools outside of the classroom to give students the opportunity to get to know them in a friendly, less formal way. A scale was devised to measure 11th grader's attitudes about police in two areas: respect for police, and whether or not they were viewed as helpful. Again, DARE students saw police in a more positive light than students from non-D.A.R.E. schools.
This study found that DARE did influence eleventh grade students' attitudes and behaviors about substance use. The differences reported here were all statistically significant, and in a positive direction. All in all, DARE reduced substance use, increased peer resistance, encouraged communication with parents and other responsible adults, and increased positive views of the police. Prevention education programs such as DARE have a major role in teaching the dangers and consequences of substance abuse. Like other prevention efforts, DARE plays an important role in supporting families, positive peer groups, and communities in order to raise healthy, responsible youth.
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