The D.A.R.E. program helps prevent drug use in elementary, middle, and high school students. According to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), participants in the D.A.R.E. program report lower alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use than students who did not receive the program. 40% of participants who used alcohol at the beginning of the program reported reductions in alcohol use after receiving the curriculum, and 32% reported discontinuation of alcohol use altogether. Studies of D.A.R.E. by the Research Triangle Institute and in the Journal of the National Medical Association found that D.A.R.E. graduates are five times less likely to initiate smoking compared with non-D.A.R.E. control groups, and report lower levels of tobacco use in 5th and 6th graders in the one to two years following program graduation. A 2010 peer-reviewed evaluation of graduates from D.A.R.E's "Take Charge of Your Life" curriculum by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that students who had used marijuana by the 7th grade were significantly less likely to use marijuana by 11th grade, compared with students in the control group.
D.A.R.E. improves decision making and attitudes toward drug use. Peer-reviewed studies show that D.A.R.E. has beneficial effects on student knowledge of drugs, attitudes about drug use, social skills, decision-making skills, attitudes toward the police, and normative beliefs about the prevalence of drug use by peers. A 2002 study from the University of Akron concluded that overall decision-making skills for D.A.R.E. graduates were 6% higher than for students that did not enroll or graduate, including those that received other forms of prevention education. D.A.R.E. graduates showed a 19% reduction in perceptions that their peers were using drugs and that such drug use was acceptable. According to SAMHSA, assessments of D.A.R.E. graduates 8 and 14 months after graduation show lower expectation of positive consequences of drug use, lower personal acceptance of drug use 2 and 8 months after graduation, and greater use of intervention strategies to turn down an offer to use drugs 2, 8, and 14 months after graduation.
D.A.R.E. improves social interaction between police officers, students, and schools. Results from a 2008 peer-reviewed study indicate that students who are taught by a police officer during the D.A.R.E. program have more positive attitudes toward the police following graduation. Schools have reported D.A.R.E. officers as providing a "sense of safety and calm" in the wake of school shootings and street violence. According to a school official in Colorado, "police are often looked at as the bad guy, or the one that's going to come in and get you for being a bad guy, and I think that D.A.R.E. provides an opportunity for our young kids particularly to find out that officers can be a resource for protection, for answers for some questions, for direction and for care." Police officers report that D.A.R.E. has made them "seem more human in the eyes of children in the community."
D.A.R.E. is popular with kids and parents. A 2007 survey showed 95% of 5,376 kids surveyed felt the program helped them "decide against using drugs in the future" and 99% of 3,095 parents surveyed showed "very positive support" for D.A.R.E. and felt their children "benefited from the program."
Students who enroll in D.A.R.E. have better attendance in the classroom. A 2010 peer-reviewed study on the D.A.R.E. program found that students were more likely to attend school on days they received D.A.R.E. lessons.
D.A.R.E. is certified as an "evidence-based substance abuse prevention program" by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Since Dec. 2006, the "Keepin' It REAL" curriculum (which D.A.R.E. adopted in 2009) has made SAMHSA's list of evidence-based drug use prevention programs. SAMHSA concludes that "no adverse effects, concerns, or unintended consequences were identified" with the program, and finds that D.A.R.E. is scientifically proven to improve four different student outcomes: alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use; anti-substance use attitudes; normative beliefs about substance use; and substance use resistance.
D.A.R.E is the most prevalent school-based substance abuse prevention program in the United States. D.A.R.E. administers a school-based substance-abuse prevention and decision-making program in 75% of US schools districts and in 43 countries (as of 2013). As of 2009, the program had trained over 50,000 police officers to teach its program every year to 36 million K-12 students worldwide and 26 million in the US alone. Every US President since 1988 has declared one day each year to be National D.A.R.E. day.
D.A.R.E. has great goals that should be pursued regardless of cost or efficacy. If D.A.R.E. can prevent even one child from becoming addicted to drugs or dying from a drug overdose then it is worth funding.
The D.A.R.E. program does not help prevent drug use in elementary, middle, or high school students. A 2004 meta-analysis of 11 peer-reviewed studies concluded D.A.R.E. is "ineffective" at preventing drug use in students and D.A.R.E. graduates "are indistinguishable from students who do not participate in the program." A 2011 study of all meta-studies of D.A.R.E found the program to be "ineffective in reducing illicit drug use among youths, especially in the long term." A national study funded by the US Department of Justice concluded that D.A.R.E. has "small effects on drug use," and is "significantly" less successful at preventing drug use than other programs. The Government Accountability Office concluded that the program had "no statistically significant long-term effect on youth illicit drug use," and the US Surgeon General cited D.A.R.E. as an "ineffective primary drug prevention program." Studies evaluating the original D.A.R.E. curriculum, through D.A.R.E.'s "Take Charge of Your Life" curriculum, through the present "Keepin' It REAL" program, overwhelmingly conclude that D.A.R.E. does not prevent drug use.
D.A.R.E. is associated with increased drug use. A peer-reviewed, six-year study of D.A.R.E. from 1989 to 1996 concluded that suburban students who participated in D.A.R.E. reported a 3%-5% higher rate of drug use than suburban students who did not participate. Suburban students reported higher use of alcohol in the previous 30-days, higher lifetime alcohol use, higher 30-day total drug use (including marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine, and smokeless tobacco), and higher lifetime total drug use. A 2009 peer-reviewed study of graduates from D.A.R.E's "Take Charge of Your Life" curriculum found a 3-4% increase in alcohol and cigarette use among 11th grade students who were not using either substance by seventh grade (at the beginning of the study) compared to those who never enrolled.
D.A.R.E. graduates do not show any long-term increase in knowledge of drugs, attitudes about drug use, social skills, or attitudes toward the police. According to a peer-reviewed meta-study, any of these short-term positive effects of the D.A.R.E. program disappear "typically within 1 to 2 years," and "the effect on drug use behaviors (measured in numerous ways) are extremely rare and when identified are small in size and dissipate quickly."
D.A.R.E. causes kids to ignore legitimate information about the relative harms of drugs. Kids eventually ignore the D.A.R.E. program's zero-tolerance message when they see friends or family members using drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco without any immediately adverse consequences. This causes kids to ignore genuinely useful information about the relative harms of different drugs.
D.A.R.E. is a "potentially harmful therapy" that violates the Hippocratic Oath. Scott O. Lilienfeld, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Emory University, states in the peer-reviewed journal Perspectives on Psychological Science that D.A.R.E. may increase intake of alcohol and other drugs, making it a "potentially harmful therapy (PHT)." D.A.R.E. "overestimates the number of children and adolescents who engage in drug abuse," and normalizes the use of substances like alcohol because of an "excessive focus on severe substances" such as cocaine and heroin. The program therefore violates the physician and psychologists's Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm."
Students respond negatively to the D.A.R.E. program. A survey of D.A.R.E. by the California Department of Education found that 40% of students told researchers they were "not at all" influenced by D.A.R.E., and nearly 70% reported neutral to negative feelings about those leading the program. 33% of middle school students and 90% of high school students reported "negative" or "indifferent" feelings towards D.A.R.E. Students reported that the D.A.R.E. message is repeated so often at school that the concept has lost its meaning and becomes tedious.
D.A.R.E. lures parents into a false sense of security about their kids' drug use. Some parents become less involved with the education of their child in drug abuse awareness because they believe D.A.R.E. is doing it for them. According to Lance Miles, former fifth-grade teacher whose students took D.A.R.E. classes weekly: "A lot of parents aren't doing their jobs, and we're left to do that job [at school], telling them things they ought to be taught about at home... There's only so much that teachers and police officers can do before parents must take over."
The number of schools partnering with D.A.R.E. has steadily declined and revenues have fallen year after year, proving that teachers and administrators do not believe it works. According to a 2012 study, about 60% of school districts have eliminated D.A.R.E. since the mid-2000s in the 32 states where data were available. D.A.R.E.'s 2011 annual report showed total revenues around $3.7 million, down from $9.7 million in 2000.