Education Should Focus on Stopping Drug Use Before It Starts | Opinion
Last Updated: Wednesday January 10, 2024
(Newsweek) Efforts to prevent drug use and encourage kids to live free from drugs have come under increased attack. Rather than building on science and common sense, some have begun advocating for an unproven approach to prevention that aims to not prevent drug use at all—instead it educates children on how to use drugs. Policymakers should reject these inherently flawed initiatives and instead scale up evidence-based prevention campaigns that emphasize the importance of living healthy, drug-free lives.
Agenda-driven activists have taken cheap shots at popular programs like D.A.R.E. and Just Say No, which were championed in the '80s and '90s to discourage drug use. Hindsight is always 20/20, but we should not toss the baby out with the bathwater. These campaigns were not flawless, but they conveyed important messages and saw usage rates decline.
In 1983, when D.A.R.E was established, a remarkable 47 percent of 12th graders were past-year users of "any illicit drug"––ranging from marijuana to cocaine to heroin. By 1990, this decreased by almost 15 percent, before increasing again by 2000. Twenty-two years later, we've made it back to 1990 numbers, with marijuana and hallucinogens now the most commonly used drugs.