Real Drug Education

At the Drug Policy Alliance, we believe accurate, honest, compassionate drug education is a right for all young people.

Abstinence-Only Drug Education Doesn’t Work

Most schools in the United States provide drug education programs that are based in abstinence-only logic despite its weaknesses. Programs like D.A.R.E. don’t give students the tools they need to make safe decisions or to get help if problems with alcohol and other drugs do occur.

Furthermore, abstinence-only education too often has the effect of making teenagers cynical about any drug information coming from adults.

We know that some young people do use drugs. So any approach to drug education that focuses on keeping kids safe must not only encourage young people to avoid drugs, but must also provide information on how young people can reduce risk if they or their friends do use drugs.

10 million students are in schools that have law enforcement policing student drug use but no social workers.

Despite no evidence that police presence in schools improves safety or reduces drug use, the number of officers grows every year.

Learn more about how the drug war invades our schools at

Providing Teens with Honest Drug Education

DPA champions the following drug education principles:

  • The safest path for teens is to avoid drugs, including alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs outside of a doctor’s recommendations.
  • Some youth will choose to try drugs, regardless of the risks. In order to reduce potential harm, we must teach young people strategies for keeping themselves and their friends safer when they do encounter drugs.
  • Drug education should be:
    • scientifically accurate;
    • honest, not seeking to minimize or exaggerate the risks of drugs, acknowledging the fact that not all drugs carry the same risks;
    • interactive; and
    • compassionate, taking into account that some youth will have used and/or sold drugs – or have close friends and family members who have.

DPA’s Work

The Drug Policy Alliance has a series of resources for educators and parents, including a drug education curriculum and tips for talking to teens about drugs.

Check out our drug education resources for parents, young adults and educators.


Real Drug Education