In one of the biggest turnarounds of all time, even the politically ultrapopular DARE program has had to reconsider its zero-tolerance approach. Over 75 percent of all schools nationwide pay for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education curriculum, as do 54 foreign countries, in which police officers come into the classroom to warn students of the health, social and criminal costs of drug use. A mountain of evidence suggesting that the program does little to curb drug use — in fact, statistics show that those who’ve gone through the program are slightly more likely to use drugs than those who haven’t — finally became too much to ignore. When the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Academy of Sciences came out with recent negative reports, the organization announced it was retooling.
One of the well-worn saws about addiction is that you can’t get better until you’ve hit bottom. Maybe that’s where we are at in terms of our public policy and our hearts, and so in some mad sense we’re lucky. We have nowhere to go but up.
“We’re about as mean as you can get,” says Kevin Zeese. “We’re shooting people out of the sky, we’re letting them get AIDS, we’re incarcerating because of race. We’re throwing people out of school. I don’t see us protecting health by making treatment available like any other health service. It’s a heartless and inhuman approach to dealing with people. Certainly not ‘compassionate conservatism.’ It is really abusive conservatism.”