The Tara Treatment Center Blog

Truth or D.A.R.E. with Lawrence Pender

Modern addiction prevention programs in school are ineffective. What do we do Instead?

D.A.R.E. Classroom

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® links students with scientists and other experts to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, social media, TV, movies, music, or from friends. It was launched in 2010 by scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to stimulate educational events in communities so teens can learn what science has taught us about drug use and addiction. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism became a partner in 2016, and alcohol has been added as a topic area for the week as well. 

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Awareness Week is coming up this January 22nd through 27th–a yearly event where high-schoolers get their questions answered by experts in a simple, straightforward Q-&-A format.  

lawrence pender on d.a.r.e.
We sat down to ask recovery expert and Ann Daugherty Symposium keynote speaker Lawrence Pender for his take on this approach to drug abuse prevention, and the direction he believes the topic should progress in.

When 'Just Say No' just doesn't work

Do you think this National Drug and Alcohol Facts Awareness Week is a step in the right direction for this type of ‘primary’ education?

“I think we have to allow kids to ask all the questions they need to ask.  They’ll always have that ‘WHY?’ response, and we have to be prepared for those questions too.  I think this is definitely a step in the right direction.  If we can clear up a misconception, misunderstanding, or myth about drug abuse we should always do it.”

It looks like alcohol abuse is being especially highlighted for this year’s Fact Awareness Week.  What sorts of myths or common misunderstandings have you come across related specifically to alcohol/recovery from alcohol addiction?


“As I’m learning about this awareness week, I’m reminded of what drug abuse education looked like back in MY day.  The D.A.R.E. program had good intentions but has received significant criticism over the years, and Nancy Reagan’s: ‘Just Say No’ simply doesn’t work anymore…if it ever did in the first place.  Some studies even suggest DARE made kids more interested in drugs, especially alcohol.   I really think there may be something to that idea–When you tell an addict in recovery specifically not to do something, it becomes the exact thing they want to do.  It becomes that forbidden fruit.  It only makes sense that children become curious when certain things are kept a mystery to them.”

What else should we have in these sorts of programs?  What do you think modern programs for education should look like?

I think it needs to be addressed in the context of home and family so that children can have practice with these concepts outside the classroom.  Good habits like open communication are taught and ingrained into our behavior by the people we live with everyday–our family.   Any good program needs to have some level of family involvement.

Research Supports Lawrence's Truth over D.A.R.E.

The research appears to support Lawrence’s perspective:

The University of North Florida reported a slight tendency for teens who went through D.A.R.E. to be more likely to drink and smoke than adolescents not exposed to the program. Perhaps by focusing on the hazards of severe drug abuse, D.A.R.E. may inadvertently convey the impression that alcohol and tobacco are innocuous by comparison.

A meta review of 30 studies attempted to pinpoint the common elements of successful programs. The report showed that the most effective programs involve substantial amounts of interaction between instructors and students and encouraged role playing of various family members or friends.  In addition, programs that work take into account the importance of behavioral norms: they emphasize to students that substance use is not especially common and thereby attempt to counteract the misconception that abstaining from drugs makes a person an oddball.



National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is January 22-27th

Until D.A.R.E. type programs can be further improved upon with more up-to-date research, Lawrence Pender agrees that programs like National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week®  only stand to improve upon current programs by dispelling myths and rumors about drug use among our children. Click here to learn more about community involvement in National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week!

Or, check here for More from Lawrence Pender:


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