Can you imagine how unhealthy we'd be if we didn't have large organizations spending millions on public health campaigns? If we didn't have them to herd us around with their slogans and posters, our lives would be a nightmare of illicit drugs and bad choices.
Shockingly, however, these well-meaning programs sometimes don't work out so well.
5The D.A.R.E. Program May Increase Drug Use
Damn near every school kid in the United States has been forced to sit through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (D.A.R.E.) at least once. Good ol' Officer Friendly shows up once a month or so and leads the class through obnoxious skits intended to give them an idea what peer pressure is like and how to avoid it. Spoiler alert! You avoid it by just saying "no!"
Apparently, that works for everything from drugs to unwanted sexual advances to strong-armed robbery. But it's more than just saying no, the program aims to equip young people with "creative" ways by which to say it. For the record, we generally incorporate some sort of interpretive dance when we spurn unwanted offers of sex and drugs. But we don't dance that often, if you know what we mean, ladies.
On the surface, encouraging kids to say no to drugs seems like a fine idea. What could go wrong?
It would be hard to actually know how well a program like D.A.R.E. was working unless you, say, kept track of a thousand or so kids who went through the program and then caught up with them 10 years later. So that's exactly what some people did.
Two separate studies, the results of which were prominently reported by TIME, indicated that at the very least D.A.R.E. was ineffective, but at its worst actually pushed kids toward drug use and lowered self esteem. Researchers suspect that the overstated, "peer pressure is around every corner, because EVERYONE IS DOING DRUGS BUT YOU!" message made some kids actually want to get high as a way of fitting in. If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn't they?
Look at you, just saying no to drugs, and friends, and a well-adjusted childhood.
The studies argued that the program's use of "drugs are everywhere, fucking run!" type of messages amounted to hyperbole, and kids don't like hyperbole. All it takes is the kid having one drug-using friend for him to recognize that, no, a single bong hit can't make your brain go running out of your ears like strawberry jam. And if that part is wrong, hell, maybe the whole thing is.
When are we going to figure out that even kids have bullshit detectors?