ProjectKnow, an organization dedicated to understanding addiction, has analyzed recent results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to determine the effectiveness of drug education in preventing youth from developing addictions.
According to its analysis, while drug education effectively deters youth use of drugs by emphasizing risks, an approach that identifies the risk of drugs on an individualized basis would be more effective.
"Programs like D.A.R.E. and 'Just Say No' have made a visible impact on alcohol and marijuana use, but the data shows that drug programs have been less influential in discouraging illicit drug use among students. During certain years, illicit drug use among students who participated in drug prevention programs was actually higher than students who did not participate," ProjectKnow said in its report.
For illicit drugs like opioids, for example, ProjectKnow recommends an individualized approach to the topic considering the rise in abuse.
After all, every year for the past 15 years an astounding 40 percent of teens have said they believe heroin isn't a high-risk drug despite growing annual evidence that suggests the contrary.
"In 2014, 59 percent of individuals 12 to 17 years old believed trying heroin once or twice was a great risk, yet only 50 percent felt that using cocaine once a month was a risky choice. These beliefs have remained largely unchanged over the last 15 years, despite ongoing prevention programs and a nearly sixfold increase in deaths related to heroin between 2001 and 2014," the report said.
In other words, drug education programs are missing an opportunity to educate students about drugs that are increasingly becoming threats in communities.
Programs found to be effective in reducing youth addictions, like D.A.R.E., Communities That Care, Keepin' it REAL, Project TND, and Teenage Health Teaching Modules, are recommended to heed this advice to help students understand the risks of all drugs, not just the ones primarily focused on in traditional drug education classes.
Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor