Photo by wyo92
The Bureau of Justice Assistance recently released a report titled “Lessons from the Battle Over D.A.R.E. - The Complicated Relationship Between Research and Practice.” Unlike many other programs that attempt to reduce criminal activity, DARE has been the subject of over 30 research evaluations, the overwhelming majority of them concluding that DARE’s ability to reduce substance use amongst youth is negligible. What is even more concerning is that several studies have found an actual increase, albeit a small one, in substance abuse amongst participants.
As Vermont is poised to debate lowering their minimum drinking age to 21, it seems salient to address the history of our “national” drinking age.
How did the national drinking age become 21?
For approximately forty years after the repeal of Prohibition, states had effectively managed their own minimum drinking ages, ranging from 18 to 21. During the height of the Vietnam War, however, 29 states lowered their drinking ages to conform to the enlistment age of 18. After all, if one is an adult legally endowed with the right to vote and the potential to be drafted into military service, surely one is mature enough to make responsible decisions about one’s alcohol consumption.
Meridith Spencer, over at The Crime Map, recently wrote a great post about a program that is helping make the effects of using meth very real for teens and young adults. The program is called Face2Face, and it takes images of young people and “ages” them to show them what they will look like after prolonged use of meth (as seen at right)
Face2Face image from NPR.org
Earlier this month, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a piece on the efforts of Mendocino County, California, Sheriff Thomas Allman’s innovative approach to methamphetamine prevention amongst teenagers: Face2Face. The program uses software created by Abalone, LLC, to show teenagers what their appearance may look like after six months, a year, and three years of meth use. Capitalizing on teenagers’ concern with their appearance, the program hopes to personalize the damaging effects of methamphetamine on their teeth, skin, and hair. While other states use programs that show before and after pictures of actual meth addicts, this program goes one step further, personalizing the experience for their audience. Adolescents who have participated in the program report that the powerful imagery “brings you down to earth a little bit” and is “a good experience because you never want to see yourself that way.”
Harm reduction is a philosophy in which practitioners work with drug users to reduce the harm they cause to themselves through the drug use. Harm reduction strategies range from “safer use” to abstinence and include policies such as needle exchanges, drug treatment, and overdose education. Harm reduction policies focus on individual problems and users, and as such are not universal in their application. The one universality amongst such programs is an emphasis on reducing the harm that results from drug use as opposed to punishing the user for their use. In the past week, two programs related to harm reduction appeared in the news. The Washington Post published a piece on the development of TA-CD, a vaccine intended to reduce the effects of cocaine upon the user, while the LA Times published a piece on the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s booklet “Take Charge Take Care” a guide to safer heroin use.