Representatives of Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) have issued a statement accusing HBO’s Euphoria of glamorizing drugs. And they’re something of an expert on the subject, since D.A.R.E. led to a massive increase in drug use among students subjected to their program.
The soapy HBO drama follows a motley group of teens, led by Zendaya, who chase various highs while navigating the pitfalls of high school. Season 2 is ongoing, and drugs remains a key plot point; in the first episode of the new series, Zendaya’s character overdoses on one drug, and then uses a second drug to stop herself from dying. Creator Sam Levinson based the series in part on his own youthful addiction, and sought to capture something “raw and honest,” in the series’ source material, an Israeli miniseries of the same name.
But that’s far too much honesty for some. In a statement to TMZ, a D.A.R.E. rep said, “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.”
It would be quite a feat if Euphoria managed to do half as much damage as D.A.R.E. The program that popularized “Just say no,” was introduced into elementary schools in 1983, starting with police officers teaching fifth graders about a wide variety of intoxicants. Soon it was expanded to high schools. By 1992 the first results began to trickle in. A study at Indiana University found that D.A.R.E. grads were significantly more likely to use hallucinogens than kids who didn’t learn about hallucinogens in 5th grade — imagine that!
As science writer Natalie Wolchover summed up, “Every subsequent study on the effectiveness of D.A.R.E., including a major 10-year investigation by the American Psychological Association, found much the same result. The program doesn’t work, and in fact is counterproductive, leading to higher drug use among high school students who went through it compared to students who did not.”
D.A.R.E. kept chasing the “Just say no” dragon until 1998, when it finally lost federal funding. But it’s still in existence today, occasionally emerging from its den of virtue to issue a firm scolding. As for Euphoria, it’s a massive hit, setting records for HBO Max while consistently trotting out one of the trendiest, most expensive soundtracks in television history. The full series soundtrack drops February 25th, and we named the first single, Lana Del Rey’s “Watercolor Eyes,” our Song of the Week. Episode 4 will air this Sunday, January 30th.