Sunday, February 27, 2005


Anti-drug programs
in schools need credibility


California schools are being urged by the state superintendent to banish an anti-drug program planned for Hawaii schools.

PRIVATE organizations are encouraged to join government agencies in the war against drugs, but their inaccurate or misleading proselytizing can make the problem worse. California's schools are being urged to drop one allegedly faulty program that has plans in Hawaii's schools. The Department of Education should step back and scrutinize that program and others that could add to the credibility problem that leads many youths to ignore legitimate warnings and begin using drugs.

Jack O'Connell, California's schools superintendent, has sent letters to all of that state's schools to banish the Narconon program from classrooms. A study ordered by O'Connell found that much of the guidance given to schoolchildren was misleading or inaccurate and delivered in a lecture-oriented fashion.

The study followed reports in the San Francisco Chronicle in June that the Narconon Drug Prevention & Education program introduced students to the beliefs and methods of the Church of Scientology. The program is based on the research and writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the church's founder.

The San Francisco and Los Angeles schools banned Narconon following the Chronicle's reports, but it has continued in 39 other California school districts. Narconon officials have been meeting with Hawaii school officials and other agencies in preparation of establishing a presence in the islands.

The California study, conducted by the California Healthy Kids Resource Center, concluded that Narconon conveyed scientifically inaccurate information. That includes drugs burning up vitamins and nutrients; drug-activated vitamin deficiency resulting in pain that prompts relapse; marijuana-induced rapid vitamin and nutrient loss causing the "munchies"; and small amounts of drugs stored in fat being released at a later time, causing the person to re-experience the drug effect and desire to use again.

It said Narconon put forth the misleading statements that drugs are poisons, that the amount of a drug determines whether it acts as a stimulant or as a sedative, that anyone who takes drugs does so to avoid problems and that drugs ruin creativity and dull senses. Many students will recognize such statements as propaganda and dismiss the entire message that drugs are bad.

The study also criticized Narconon's "information-only programs about the negative effects of drugs, scare tactics, testimonials of ex-addicts, single-exposure interventions and non-interactive techniques that emphasize conveying information to students." It said those techniques "fail to accommodate the complex relationship between health knowledge and behavior."

It pointed out that the best-known non-interactive program is Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, which entered Hawaii in 1985 with the Honolulu Police Department and the state DOE as partners. The program consists of police officers addressing children in middle/intermediate schools. DARE, which began in Los Angeles, "has been shown to be ineffective," according to the new study.

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