• <div class="header-image" style="background-image: url(/live/image/gid/4/2756_V6N7Web_Header_small.rev.1533574420.jpg);">​</div><div class="header-background-color"/>

‘Keepin’ it REAL’: The Costs of a Drug Prevention Program

December 01, 2013

Author: Theodore Caputi, W’17

Today, I’m going to ask you to flashback to sixth grade. If you attended public school in the United States, you will likely remember the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program- specifically the “just say no” campaign, wearing drunk-goggles, and D.A.R.E. graduation ceremonies.

Now think back to 12th grade. Even though students had gone through D.A.R.E. and signed “D.A.R.E. contracts” promising not to use drugs or alcohol, most of your classmates had already started drinking alcohol (Eaton, et al.). So where’s the gap? Why doesn’t D.A.R.E. work?

Despite D.A.R.E.’s popularity, it showed virtually no sign of actually working, or being evidenced based.  In fact, several studies have shown that the original D.A.R.E. program (in use until 2009) was ineffective, and in some cases, counterproductive (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, & Shamblen; Rosenbaum; Rosenbaum & Hanson).

This is not to say that all prevention programs are ineffective. For example, Project ALERT, and Botvin’s Life Skills were both recognized by the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) as evidenced based initiatives, and continue to provide cost-effective prevention programs that reduce drug and alcohol use in adolescents.

So why was the original D.A.R.E. program so popular?

The evidence suggests that D.A.R.E. was chosen over other prevention programs because it was “the default” program.  Sarah Birkeland, Erin Murphy-Graham, and Carol Weiss of Harvard Graduate School of Education studied sixteen school districts that used D.A.R.E. Through this study, they found that school districts used D.A.R.E. because it facilitated positive relationships between police officers and students.  But 1.3 billion dollars is a pretty hefty price tag for ensuring that young people are more familiar with police officers. Moreover, with federal costs of drug addiction hovering over 500 billion dollars, the opportunity cost for not implementing a successful prevention program is mind-boggling.

In 2009, D.A.R.E. took a step that seemed promising. Realizing its efficacy was in question, D.A.R.E.’s leadership adopted an evidence-based program calledKeepin’ it REAL.

Problem solved?

Maybe not. After reviewing the available literature, I noticed that we may be falling into the same trap that allowed us to: A) spend billions of dollars on a program that didn’t work and B) deprive our country’s youth of effective prevention programming.

Keepin’ it REAL is a prevention program developed by Penn State researchers and given evidence-based recognition in 2006. However, when D.A.R.E. adopted the Keepin’ it REAL program in 2009, D.A.R.E. changed its strategy.  D.A.R.E. offered Keepin it Real, which was initially designed for high school students, to 5thand 6th graders. Further, because D.A.R.E.’s leadership continues to place greater value on branding than scientific evidence, they failed to implement a long-term evaluation system. Relative to its cost and popularity, few studies have been performed on D.A.R.E.’s Keepin’ it REAL program.  Consequently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) ranks its “readiness for dissemination” at just a 1.5 out of 4.

It’s not clear why policy makers are using a suboptimal prevention program. It’s even less clear why we are ignoring the opportunity costs associated with using non-evidence based programs, even though scientifically proven alternatives are available.

It seems we are facing many of the same problems we faced with the original D.A.R.E. program. Again, the new D.A.R.E. program appears to be “the default” program because of its brand-name recognition. Unfortunately, that recognition is not correlated with positive results.

As the U.S. faces a major budget crunch, we can no longer afford to spend billions on programs that are ineffective. Even if the new D.A.R.E. program is taking some steps in the right direction, it is not the best use of taxpayer dollars. Our country needs to utilize a more scientific method for choosing prevention-based programming.

As a result, I recommend that states implement a centralized agency to both fund and oversee school-based prevention programming. School boards, which typically make the decision on school-based prevention programs, often lack the time to navigate the market to determine the best prevention programs for their students. Consequently, many schools have relied on D.A.R.E.’s brand-name recognition with the hopes that it will provide scientifically proven results. A centralized agency that focuses on prevention programming could help schools select scientifically based prevention programs. Moreover, a centralized agency could ensure that misspending is minimized and that students participate in the best prevention programs possible.

Drug prevention programs may seem like a “little problem” in the scheme of things. But with billions of taxpayer dollars at stake, it deserves more than a passing glance.

 

References:

  1. Eaton, Danice K., et al. “Youth risk behavior surveillance-United States, 2011.”MMWR Surveill Summ 61.4 (2012): 1-162.
  2. Rosenbaum, Dennis P. “Just say no to DARE.” Criminology & Public Policy 6.4 (2007): 815-824.
  3. Rosenbaum, Dennis P., and Gordon S. Hanson. “Assessing the effects of school-based drug education: A six-year multilevel analysis of Project DARE.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 35.4 (1998): 381-412.
  4. Birkeland, Sarah, Erin Murphy-Graham, and Carol Weiss. “Good reasons for ignoring good evaluation: The case of the drug abuse resistance education (DARE) program.” Evaluation and Program Planning 28.3 (2005): 247-256.
  5. Shepard III, Edward M. “The economic costs of DARE.” Institute of Industrial Relations, Research paper 22 (2001).
  6. Vincus, Amy A., et al. “A short-term, quasi-experimental evaluation of dare’s revised elementary school curriculum.” Journal of drug education 40.1 (2010): 37-49.

 

 

Student Blog Disclaimer
  • The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.

PENN WHARTON PPI
RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>