Comedy about DARE Program Reflects Reality

Comedian Andy Dick, who has been in rehab several times for marijuana possession, appears in one episode of “The Assistant” wearing a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) logo.

Unfortunately, this is a case of art reflecting reality. The sad fact is that the DARE program is completely ineffective and sometimes even counterproductive. That's the conclusion of the U.S. General Accounting Office, the U.S. Surgeon General, the National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Education. Not surprisingly, the federal government now prohibits schools from spending federal funds on the failed program.

It’s not funny, but it’s true -- DARE doesn’t work.

However, there is good news. The social norms marketing technique has repeatedly proven effective in reducing the use and abuse of alcohol among young people. It’s based on the fact that the vast majority of young people greatly exaggerate in their minds the quantity and frequency of drinking among their peers. Therefore, they tend to drink -- or drink more -- than they would otherwise, in an effort to “fit in.”

When credible surveys demonstrate the actual, much lower drinking rates, and the results are widely publicized or “marketed” to this group, the imagined social pressure drops and so does youthful drinking. Study after study demonstrates that the technique works with both alcohol and drugs.

What’s more, social norms programs cost very little to implement.


  • Heffernan, Virginia. A reality show that tries to spoof reality shows. New York Times (Arts section), July 12, 2004.