Jeff Sessions’s praise of DARE shows he just can’t quit the 1980s

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Trump’s attorney general said the anti-drug program DARE worked. The research shows it was actually a huge failure.

It was peak Jeff Sessions, the moment that showed exactly what the country is getting under President Donald Trump’s attorney general: Ignoring decades of scientific evidence, Sessions praised an anti-drug program — DARE — straight out of the 1980s “tough on crime” playbook.

Speaking at a DARE conference, Sessions said, “DARE is, I think, the best remembered anti-drug program today. In recent years, people have not paid much attention to that message, but they are ready to hear it again. … We know it worked before, and we can make it work again.”

DARE was largely based on one idea: If you tell kids about how bad drugs are, they will be so scared that they will not use them. The program leveraged this to try to teach kids how to say no to drugs.

Different levels of government threw money at DARE, encouraging the majority of school districts in the US to take it up. So many kids growing up in the 1980s through the early 2000s were bombarded by DARE’s messaging in their schools, warned about how drugs, from marijuana to LSD to heroin, will ruin their lives after even one instance of use — because they’ll get immediately addicted and suffer for a lifetime.

This simply did not work. Decades of research show that DARE was nothing short of a complete disaster, failing to reduce drug use among youth. Even DARE’s own leaders finally acknowledged this after years of denying the evidence, redesigning the curriculum under a new slogan — “keepin’ it REAL” — by 2012 after the overwhelming empirical evidence finally led multiple levels of government to pull back funding for the program.

What Sessions said, then, is simply wrong.


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