From: Lamont Granquist Newsgroups: soc.libraries.talk,alt.drugs Subject: More on DARE Date: 13 Nov 1994 09:17:37 GMT Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Here's some other things i've been thinking about with respects to the DARE program, anti-drug programs, and propoganda in america. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ DARE: Deliver Acronyms Rather than Education As far as i'm concerned this about sums it up. The DARE program simply is not *about* eduction, i doubt that anyone could seriously defend the content of the DARE program in a scientific fashion and i don't feel it serves any other purpose other than simple indoctrination. The DARE program presents a grossly oversimplified and pretty much inaccurate picture of the causes and cures of drug abuse. It furthermore is aimed more at being a "feel good" program for those who are already "straight" while those who are currently drug users get a substantially different message, and one that is manifestly counterproductive to the stated goals of the program. It comes as no surprise that a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health found that DARE does not reduce drug abuse, and in fact my increase the use of marijuana by those who participate in it. These seemingly "paradoxical" results have some very simple explanations. The Structure of Anti-Drug Propaganda. The program used by DARE and other "drug prevention" programs does not address the real causes of drug abuse. The picture that is most often presented in these programs is one where an individual confronts a situation where drugs are offered to them, and the program attempts to give that person the ability to "Just Say No." This kind of program ignores the substantial pre-existing psychology of the person who is being offered the drugs and tends to take a very "individualistic" approach to the problem of drug abuse. If the person takes drugs then they are judged to be _as an individual_ to have made a bad choice and to be morally inferior. On the other hand "good" students who do not make the bad choice are judged to be morally superior. This fits in quite nicely with an individualistic philosophy and rationalizes the continued incarceration and dehumanization of drug users as being somewho morally inferior. I will come to how this picture is simply wrong in a bit, but for now lets consider the effect that this has on students in the DARE program. In light of current views on psychology the DARE program should have very, very different messages to those individuals with low or with high self-esteem. Low Self Esteem vs. High Self Esteem Current perspectives in psychology have determed two salient facts about people with low vs. high self esteem. The first is that individuals assess the causes of their fortunes very differently based on self esteem. A high self esteem individual will typically regard a positive experience as having been caused by themselves, and will take credit for the action. They will not, however, take credit for negative experiences. If they perform badly on a test, they will find some way to blame the negative outcome on factors external to themselves, or to focus on their successes and not their failures. Low self-esteem individuals, however, do exactly the opposite. If they are presented with a good outcome they will find some factor in the environment to blame it on, while claiming that bad outcomes are entirely their fault and that they bear the full responsibility of the blame. The second fact is that low self esteem individuals tend to do very poorly on a second task after intially failing a first one. Much more so than high self esteem individuals. Failure tends to beget more failure when one has low self esteem. Self Esteem and DARE The problem with DARE is largely with its effects on low self-esteem children who arguably are at the most risk for drug abuse. Those high in self-esteem will of course have their perceptions of themselves reinforced. They are, arguably, only ever going to wind up as casual drug users, and these programs will probably prevent this from happening. However, the message to the low self-esteem children reinforces their beliefs that if they use drugs they are taking actions entirely as an individual agent which are morally reprehensible. This does *not* "scare them straight" as some might believe, but instead has the effect of making them fail worse. Thus explaning the increased rate of marijuana use among DARE graduates. There should also be a predictable effect where DARE graduates are more segregated into abstainers or heavy users rather than casual users. There is nothing in the DARE program which might address the actual causes of drug abuse, and which might be useful for someone who actually is at risk for drug abuse. The DARE program simply _is_not_about_prevention_. Other Effects The DARE program presents the users of drugs with a problem of having to deal with a substantial amount of social alienation and negative labelling. There are three ways that they can deal with this: 1. They could abstain. This would, however, arguably have some negative effects on independence and on individual creativity. Summed up over all the other similar social messages which are presented in our society ("just say no to homosexuality", "just say no to sex", etc) this could wind up being cumulatively quite substantial. 2. They could continue using, while accepting the negative labelling. This will likely be the route taken by those with low self-esteem and will externally appear to be a pattern of self-destructive behavior. However, given no useful psychological counselling it is unlikely that they will have a substantial choice in the matter. 3. They could continue using, while denying the negative label. This will, however, lead to lower respect for authority figures, and still will tend to alienate these people from those who abstain and thereby lead to fractures in the social fabric. Realistic Programs Many of these predictions have been confirmed by Block and Shelder (American Psychologist 45(5):612-30, 1990) who also concluded that: "...current efforts at drug prevention are misguided to the extent that they focus on symptoms, rather than on the psychological syndrome underlying drug abuse." They found links to drug use which would essentially confirm that it is correlated with the pre-existing psychology of the adolescent long before they are ever presented with the opportunity to use drugs. This is not a surprise to psychologists. There has also been growing support for the theories that drug abuse can be linked to genetic factors and to neuropsychiatric or *biological* factors in the brain. It is, essentially beginning to be viewed more as a medical problem similar to diabetes. A program which actually addressed the causes of drug abuse would have many advantages over DARE and similar programs. It would be effective where DARE is simply not effective or counterproductive, and it would not have the same effects at eroding the credibility of authority figures. The one feature it would not have, however, is it would not create a core group of adolescents who were as closed to alternative viewpoints and open to moralistic propaganda. The fact that the DARE program is so pervasive in our society, while the actually effects of DARE go so unquestioned is a sad commentary. You simply will not find DARE called "propaganda" anywhere in the mass media, although it quite clearly surves simply no other purpose. -- Lamont Granquist Q: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb? N: None! If it needed fixing, the market would take care of it!