The Trouble With D.A.R.E.

Article by Ryan Fink, Lift News

The trouble with D.A.R.E. One person’s experience with the infamous drug use prevention program

I imagine most of you have been exposed to D.A.R.E. at some point, either as an unwitting schoolchild, or as the unwilling parent of such a child. This is certainly where I first encountered the term ‘gateway drug,’ way back in grade five.

A man with a gun, who I had never seen before, replaced my schoolteacher for an hour. Among other things, he told us that cannabis (he said “marijuana”) was something called a ‘gateway drug.’ He then proceeded to explain what this means. As I recall, it went something like this:

“These are drugs. If you try one, you’ll try them all.”

He made it clear that all drugs were bad, told us what they’re all called—cocaine, heroin, crystal meth—but cannabis was the ‘gateway drug,’ the one that, if you were a drug person, you tried before you inevitably dove headfirst everything else.

I remember being asked to roleplay a situation in which I was stoned and trying to convince my classmate to join me. It was his job to pretend to resist my feigned corruption. I had a lot of fun pretending to be ‘that guy’ I had seen on TV who does drugs. The one who used to be on all kinds of programs back in the early 90’s, when that fried egg commercial was in its prime.

It was a fun role to play. I was the entertainer, the comedian, the carefree spirit. But the whole point was that this was bad, that fun was bad. I made my classmates laugh with my performance—it was a step up from the usual math.

Thinking back to this time, I wonder how many of the kids in my class had parents who used drugs… what they might have been thinking while the rest of us had a laugh at their folks’ expense.

Meanwhile, the strange man with the gun made us all feel… safe? I’m not so sure. But I can say that he made us feel deeply. There was an instrument of death in our sanctified classroom.

I can’t stress the power of that gun enough. Any of you who have young boys will know the potency of this symbol; toy guns are everywhere, toys with toy guns, guns on TV.

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