Youth Illicit Drug Use Prevention:

DARE Long-Term Evaluations and Federal Efforts to Identify Effective Programs

GAO-03-172R: Published: Jan 15, 2003. Publicly Released: Jan 15, 2003.

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This report contains information on (1) the results of evaluations on the long-term effectiveness of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE) elementary school curriculum in preventing illicit drug use among children and (2) federal efforts to identify programs that are effective in preventing illicit drug use among children.

The six long-term evaluations of the DARE elementary school curriculum that we reviewed found no significant differences in illicit drug use between students who received DARE in the fifth or sixth grade (the intervention group) and students who did not (the control group). Three of the evaluations reported that the control groups of students were provided other drug use prevention education. All of the evaluations suggested that DARE had no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use. Of the six evaluations we reviewed, five also reported on students' attitudes toward illicit drug use and resistance to peer pressure and found no significant differences between the intervention and control groups over the long term. Two of these evaluations found that the DARE students showed stronger negative attitudes about illicit drug use and improved social skills about illicit drug use about 1 year after receiving the program. These positive effects diminished over time. HHS and Education have identified several programs that show evidence of effectiveness in preventing youth substance abuse and promoted their use in schools and communities. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within HHS and Education use expert panels to review program information that the programs' developers or others submit and rank the programs on several criteria, such as the scientific rigor of their evaluations and the overall usefulness of their findings for preventing substance abuse. Only those programs that produce a consistent pattern of positive results that have been verified scientifically are recognized as effective, according to SAMHSA. HHS has also identified other programs supported by HHS-funded research, that show evidence of effectiveness in preventing substance abuse among youth. Specifically, within NIH, officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and scientists who conduct NIDA-funded research identified effective drug use prevention programs that were scientifically evaluated and have demonstrated positive results over time. HHS and Education disseminate descriptions of effective programs to practitioners, schools, and the general public. In addition to the effective programs, each of the agencies also has identified programs that, based on initial results, show promise in preventing substance abuse among youth. However, the outcomes of these programs either have not yet been verified scientifically or have not consistently demonstrated positive results in preventing or reducing substance use, according to the agencies. The agencies also disseminate lists of these programs.

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