Blowing Smoke 

Blowing Smoke 
Posted by FoM on October 15, 2000 at 08:25:37 PT
By Johanna Seltz, Globe Correspondent
Source: Boston Globe
Taxpayers are spending millions of dollars to stop youngsters from drinking and taking drugs. So why do so many still do it?The numbers may be down from the heights of the 1970s, but they are still alarming: Half the high school students surveyed in Massachusetts last year said they drank alcohol in the past month, a third used marijuana. Almost 10 percent tried cocaine. The state has the largest percentage of teenagers addicted to drugs and alcohol in the country.
The anti-abuse message has been widely ignored despite nearly $30 million in state and federal money being spent last year on programs designed to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among Massachusetts youths. There is a full-time drug czar in the governor's office. Nationally, the federal government last year poured $560 million into prevention programs. And creating an effective anti-drug program is no mystery; specialists in the prevention field say they know what works.So what are we doing wrong?It's what we are not doing right. The programs proven most effective are being largely ignored, as schools pursue other approaches - such as the widely used, police-led DARE curriculum - that many specialists deem ineffective.The result, say those who have studied the problem, is a missed opportunity, with lasting consequences.''Criticizing DARE is like going after motherhood or apple pie,'' says Lloyd Johnston, the head researcher of the Monitoring the Future study, a federally financed study at the Michigan Survey Research Center that since 1975 has followed drug and alcohol use around the nation.''A number of rigorous scientific studies show no lasting drug prevention effects from it at all. The real cost is the opportunity cost. Parents and school boards think they are doing something when they're not, so a lot of kids pass under the bridge of adolescence and are never touched by an effective prevention program.''DARE is the nation's most popular anti-drug program. Started in 1983 by the Los Angeles Police Department, Drug Awareness Resistance Education uses specially trained officers who teach a prevention curriculum during school hours. More than 80 percent of schools nationwide use the DARE approach. In Massachusetts, DARE is in 1,200 schools in 320 communities.The federal Safe and Drug-free Schools Program is aware of criticism of DARE. While it has stopped short of endorsing certain programs - DARE or any other - it is requiring schools that take federal money for prevention to use so-called ''science based'' approaches, or else document the success of the ones they are using. The catch is enforcement is difficult, if not impossible.''The more important issue is to get people in the right mind-set, to be accountable,'' says director William Modzeleski. ''Science-based is the way we want people to go.''So what does science tell us about what works to stop children from pumping themselves up with drugs and alcohol?''Scare tactics don't work,'' says Michael Roona, executive director of Social Capital Development Corp. in Albany, N.Y., noted for its review of all the research on effectiveness. ''Dealing with their lives, placing a premium on things that are important to them, and being as interactive as possible - that's what works, not simply lecturing.''Roona says, ''The average kid doesn't care if he'll die five years from now because that's a lifetime away. But if you tell a young adolescent male that girls think you're disgusting if your breath smells bad because you smoke pot and you'll never get a date, that works.''Teaching young people how to negotiate the social scene also works, according to Roona; working out ways to say no - without feeling uncool - helps, too.''It's not profound. It's intuitive,'' he says. ''But despite the fact that this is intuitive, these aren't the programs that are being used.''Why not? ''Researchers are great at writing things for peer review; they're not great at marketing,'' says Denise Hallfors, whose University of North Carolina study found that the most popular programs were the least effective. DARE officials dispute the idea that their program is not effective. Milt Dodge, DARE's deputy director, says critics have done faulty or incomplete evaluations.And DARE certainly has the kind of public support that most private programs seek. In fact, not using DARE can be uncomfortable for some schools, and some teachers. The head of the Governor's Alliance Against Drugs in Massachusetts is also head of the state DARE Program, a former DARE officer, and a strong advocate of the program.Michael Gill, Cohasset's health education coordinator, says he's gotten grief over the years for not using DARE, not ''buying into the cult,'' as he puts it. He thinks educators, not police officers, should be responsible for teaching about drugs and alcohol in schools.''I had a state official come to me and say, `Why don't you use DARE? We're offering it free.' I said, `So what? I want to see proof that it's going to be effective before I use it.' It's the same as asking if we would take a math curriculum just because it was being offered free,'' Gill said.''If the goal is to improve youth-police relations,'' DARE works well,Gill said. ''And it can be a helpful supplement to prevention work if done right and by the right people. I'm not anti-DARE.''Joyce Allen, Braintree's former health coordinator, also says DARE has its benefits - ''having a really nice cop running around telling kids not to do drugs has to help'' - but acknowledges it does not do well in objective studies, and that it promises too much. She uses it only for fifth-graders.The schools in Harvard passed on DARE, choosing a more flexible local program. ''I don't want this to sound snobby, but the reading level was too low, and that was a turnoff for our kids,'' says Delma Josephson, school health coordinator. ''The goals were great, but it needed modification to better suit our community.''All the criticism of DARE has led to an attempt to upgrade the program. Zili Sloboda, a senior research associate at the Institute for Health and Social Policy at the University of Akron, has pulled together a team of scientists, educators, and DARE officers to use the latest research to rewrite the program's curriculum.Sloboda's credentials are hefty. While at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, she wrote the classic ''little red book'' of the prevention field - ''Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents, a Research-Based Guide.'' As an epidemiologist and medical sociologist, she is convinced that good prevention programs do work, especially when they are written to age-specific groups and offered all through school. In fact, she's frustrated that they are not used often enough.''We have lives at stake - not only physical but social and psychological,'' Sloboda says. ''We know how to address the problem, but somehow we're not getting that message across.''But marketing itself is what DARE does beautifully, and that is what attracted Sloboda. ''The best network we have is DARE,'' she says. ''If there isn't DARE, there's nothing.''Sloboda's group started with the DARE seventh-grade curriculum and narrowed the focus to tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants. The group got rid of the lecture format and concentrated on group discussion, role playing, and problem solving. It built in family involvement, with take-home material designed to stimulate conversation.They wrote 10 lessons, each one incorporating what researchers found worked: building communication skills and the ability to say ''no'' comfortably; changing misconceptions that everybody drinks or takes drugs; and developing attitudes that drugs and alcohol are bad for you. One session looks at the latest research on the effects of drugs on the brain, with MRI pictures detailing the damage.After testing the lessons on volunteer 13- and 14-year-olds, the group started training DARE officers in Ohio this fall for a test-run of the new curriculum. Sloboda is waiting to hear if she has money for a full national study. The DARE organization, says spokesman Dodge, is excited about the chance to improve the program.Roona, who worked with Sloboda on the new curriculum, is skeptical that it will work. ''I don't think having a uniformed officer in front of a group of rebellious teenagers will send the message, especially in inner cities,'' he says.And Roona is not convinced that spending money on prevention programs for all students is the right approach. It might be more important, he says, to funnel the money into school counselors, who would reach the troubled students most likely to misuse drugs or alcohol.Kris Bosworth, who teaches prevention education at the University of Arizona, also worked on the new DARE. She cautions that even good programs will not work in bad schools.''We know that kids with goals, with a sense of where they are going, are less likely to use substances. You can have a good program, but if you have a school that is in chaos, it is like taking good seeds and throwing them on rocky ground.''Others look beyond school to national drug policies, the media and advertisers, and community action.Sloboda, for one, wants to start by trying to make the program most used by schools - DARE - the most likely to succeed. ''Can a prevention program really change what kids do'' he asks. ''I think it definitely can. If it's done right. And it's not being done right in this country.''Note: There is an easy answer to why children are ignoring schools' anti-drug efforts.NewsHawk: KerrySource: Boston Globe (MA)Author: Johanna SeltzPublished: October 15, 2000 Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company. Contact: letter globe.comAddress: P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378Website: Articles:Editorial: DARE Proven To Be Ineffective DARE Archives:
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Comment #2 posted by Phyro on October 15, 2000 at 23:44:04 PT
The Same old - - - - !
   It's The same old line of LIE LIE LIE and F--- if Lieing is wrong? It's for the KIDS ( Yaaa Right its for the Kids !) The only kids it will help are your kids at X-mass.  ( & that X-Mass Bouness ).Same Thing Diffrent BOX..
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Comment #1 posted by mungojelly on October 15, 2000 at 15:38:11 PT:
what about truth?
"The average kid doesn't care if he'll die five years from now because that's a lifetime away. But if you tell a young adolescent male that girls think you're disgusting if your breath smells bad because you smoke pot and you'll never get a date, that works." -- Does it make any difference at all that neither of these things are true? Is truth ever relevant, or only "effectiveness?" Just how morally bankrupt are these people? 
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