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DARE still exists, and it's coming after the hit HBO show Euphoria.
A representative from the nearly 40-year-old prohibitionist organization Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, or DARE, told TMZ that the drug-heavy teen dramedy Euphoria could potentially exacerbate mental health challenges among young people. Now in its second season, Euphoria is well known for its depictions of substance abuse among its cast of high school-attending characters.
The organization even offered to consult the show's producers on its depiction of teen drug use.
"It is unfortunate that HBO, social media, television program reviewers, and paid advertising have chosen to refer to the show as 'groundbreaking,' rather than recognizing the potential negative consequences on school age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges," said an unnamed representative to TMZ.
“Rather than further each parent’s desire to keep their children safe from the potentially horrific consequences of drug abuse and other high-risk behavior, HBO’s television drama Euphoria chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence, and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world,” they continued.
For some, the biggest surprise here will be that DARE still exists. The educational program was founded in 1983 — shortly after Nancy Reagan launched her hypocritical “Just Say No” campaign — and was at one point present in 75% of US schools. One of the program’s founders, LA police chief Daryl Gates, was forced to resign from the LAPD in 1991 over his grievous mishandling of the Rodney King police beating. Studies throughout the years suggested that the program, which featured actual police officers lecturing classrooms about the dangers of drugs, does not prevent young people from developing problematic relationships with most psychoactive substances (however, a 2009 reboot that made the curriculum more interactive, did show increased effectiveness.)
"We would welcome the opportunity for our team, including members of our high school-aged Youth Advocacy Board, to meet with individuals at HBO who are involved with producing Euphoria to present our concerns directly,” the DARE rep told TMZ.
Thankfully, today, there are educational programs more suited to the fact that drugs won the War on Drugs — even if they’re nowhere near DARE’s high water mark for presence in schools. The Drug Policy Alliance’s “Safety First” and the University of Victoria’s “Cycles” are among the educational tools geared toward teens that refuse to fall into alarmist, scientifically illiterate fearmongering over teens taking a single puff of weed, for example.
That being said, no one is arguing that there isn’t a large amount of drug-taking that goes on in Euphoria, whose season two premiere has already been seen by 10.8 million viewers. The program begins with a trigger warning for “violence, nudity and sexual content that may be disturbing to viewers,” and its star Zendaya recently took to Instagram to caution fans that the show is for “mature audiences.”
It is, however, true that Euphoria can unrealistically depict teenage life: Drug use among actual teens has dropped significantly in recent years. Nevertheless, it seems doubtful that show creator Sam Levinson and his team would be anxious to have the prohibitionist-oriented DARE team weighing in on their characters’ lives.