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Programs in the US
In the United States traces its roots to the Scientific Temperance Instruction movement promoted by Mary Hunt of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) . That movement began in the 1880s and by 1900, alcohol temperance or abstinence teaching was required in every state plus all possessions of the U.S.
Following the repeal of prohibition in 1933, some states maintained their own prohibition and local option in other states maintained prohibition in hundreds of counties and municipalities across the country. About 38% of the American population lived under prohibition after national repeal. In addition, states continued to maintain laws mandating anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco instruction. For this reason, the WCTU continued to play a major role in influencing the content of alcohol education.
Enthusiasm for promoting alcohol abstinence tended to decline with the passage of time and alcohol education no longer had such a high priority. However, during the 1960’s the public became concerned over press reports of widespread illegal drug use. In 1970, President Nixon asserted that drug education was a matter of the highest national priority and must be taught from kindergarten through twelfth grade. By the 1970s, most of the 17,000 school districts had implemented drug education. Alcohol education had became a part of drug education.
Just as temperance movement activists assumed that teaching the evils of “Demon Rum” in schools would frighten students into abstinence, it was believed that teaching the evils of drugs would frighten young people into avoiding. The results were less than satisfactory.
In 1973, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse concluded that “no drug education program in this country, or elsewhere, has proven sufficiently successful to warrant our recommending it” and speculated that “the avalanche of drug education in recent years has been counterproductive” and may have stimulated rebellion or simply raised interest in the forbidden fruit. The Commission called for a moratorium on the production and distribution of new drug education materials until the effectiveness of existing materials could be evaluated.
In 1977, the Cabinet Committee on Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation concluded that young people would continue to experiment with illicit drugs as a natural part of growing up. Therefore, it recommended that drug education efforts be “primarily focused on moderating the effects of drug taking.”
That same year the federal government adopted an abstinence-only policy regarding alcohol and within a few years the “Just Say No” policy was in effect regarding both alcohol and drugs.
The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, is the federal government’s largest school-based alcohol drug education program. It funds a wide variety of programs to prevent the consumption of alcohol and use of illicit drugs.
In 1986, the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education was established. It provides grants to colleges and universities for alcohol and drug education programs. Congress also passed legislation requiring colleges and universities to have alcohol and drug education programs in place in order to qualify for federal financial aid monies.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program was established in 1983 by Los Angeles (CA) Police Chief Darryl Gates. It consists of specially trained police officers teaching the dangers of alcohol and drugs to school children.
Three years later a National Institute of Justice study suggested that DARE had some promise. Congress soon approved a large package of drug prevention money, earmarking 10 percent to go to programs taught by uniformed police officers. Along with other criteria, the set-aside perfectly matched DARE, launching the program nationally.
Unfortunately, no peer-reviewed published study has yet demonstrated that DARE has any long-term effectiveness in reducing either alcohol consumption or drug use. Federal funding has now been cut and the program has undergone revisions in an attempt to make it effective and again eligible for federal funding.
In spite of its problems, DARE remains very popular with educators, parents, students and the general public. It is used in nearly 80% of the school districts in the United States and in 54 other countries around the world, and is taught to 36,000,000 students each year.
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