Last year one of my classmates died of a heroin overdose. What went wrong? We all participated in the popular program DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). DARE told us to "Just say no to drugs" and focused mainly on ways to avoid peer pressure, but is it always peer pressure that causes kids to do drugs? In my friend's case the answer was "no." His drug abuse stemmed from a horrific family life and a past family history that was doused in drug addiction. I imagine it was slightly harder for my fallen friend to just say no when the person asking him to do the drugs wasn't some peer, rather it was, in a way, himself.
Although the DARE program argues that peer pressure is a major cause of teen drug use, my friend was not pressured by his peers to try heroin. Therefore, the DARE program pushes the message that students should resist peer pressure to try drugs, but according to Sarah Glazer, a staff writer for the CQ Researcher, this tactic "may have little impact in a society where drug experimentation is a normal but not necessarily fatal part of adolescence" (Glazer).
It is true that peer pressure is a major force that leads to teen drug use. The DARE program tries to teach kids to resist peer pressure through such catchy phrases as "Just Say No." Kids are taught how to walk away from certain awkward social situations by "Just saying no." Does this work? In theory yes, but one must consider a few things when analyzing this combative technique to peer pressure.
Young people have an extremely hard time with self control. Self control is a key element when considering the current tactics taught by DARE educators; most teens simply do not have the will to just walk away from a conflicting situation such as a peer offering drugs. Also, the reality is that drugs are everywhere and readily available. Marsha Rosenbaum, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in San Francisco, CA, an alliance devoted to offering alternative solutions to current drug policies, stated that the current DARE program offers an "unsophisticated delivery system… [of the] same message" (Rosenbaum qtd. In Masci). In a society where drugs are everywhere it is not enough to just tell kids to not do drugs.
One problem with the DARE program is that abstinence and peer pressure go hand in hand. DARE preaches that abstinence is the best policy when dealing with drugs. The experts who run the DARE program feel the best way to combat drug addiction is to teach kids to never do drugs. This ideal is false. It would take the greatest teacher to have ever walked the face of the earth to "teach" a child to never do a drug. A child cannot be taught abstinence, and peer pressure is a much more forceful opponent than most think. Abstinence is the best form of protection, but when abstinence fails there are always other answers. Rehabilitation and other means of help are always available. DARE education, however, does not go beyond the "Just say no" tactic. If one does do drugs what...