The ’80s Era “Just-Say-No-To-Drugs” Philosophy and Evidence-Based Smoking Cessation Education: Two Divergent Approaches, Only One Success

The 1980s approach to drug addiction could easily be summed up in three epic  words: Just. Say. No.  Our then-First Lady, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, along with D.A.R.E. (Drug Addiction Resistance Education), took a hard line on drug addiction.

DARE logo - Drug Abuse Resistance Education

Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Logo

The approach was simply and clear: Keep kids from ever touching drugs. Teach them to shun drugs, to say no, even to the possibility.  For years, drug war crusaders reciting this mantra tried their hardest to stem the rising tide of drug addition.

This approach relied heavily on emotion-laden appeals, a fear-based approach that was supposed to scare kids straight.  Except it didn’t.  As much as we tried to keep our youth drug-free, the number of addicts kept rising.  An idea, in principle, may work.  In practice, it may fail miserably.  Here, such was so.

Cocaine By Valero Everett

Cocaine by Valero Everett

According to a mathematical review of the data about teens, Wei Pan, researching at the University of Cincinnati, along with Haiyan Bai of the University of Central Florida, found that D.A.R.E. was statistically insignificant in reducing teen drug addiction.  Why weren’t kids listening to the police officers’ advice not to take drugs?  What was happening?  How is it that the kids were missing the point?

Effectively communicating the hazards of drug abuse to adolescents was the primary goal.  If we ask why the “Just Say No” approach failed in America in the 80s, we must consider what we are really saying when we tell kids this.  “Just say no!” means say no, without reservation, without due consideration.

Homeless by SEO Jester

Homeless Person by SEO Jester

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(C) Copyright 2017 D Alban, H Miller. Authored by D Alban