First Advisor

Claire Wheeler

Date of Award

Spring 6-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Public Health Studies: Pre-clinical Health Science and University Honors


Health Studies




Drug abuse -- Study and teaching -- United States – Evaluation, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (Program), Project ALERT (1984- ), Stigma (Social psychology), Drug abusers -- Psychology




The United States has a long and complex history surrounding substance use. Drug education programs have become widely implemented in American schools and the media. Policy, rhetoric, and ideology have directly affected the curriculum of drug education programs. Drug education in the United States centers around substance abstinence. While well-intended, abstinence-based drug education is not a pragmatic solution for reducing substance-related harm or promoting health. The purpose of this thesis is to critique two of the most widely used abstinence-based drug education programs; Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) and Project ALERT. These programs often emphasize the dangers of substance use and why individuals shouldn’t ever engage in these behaviors, but only make a shallow attempt at looking into why individuals use substances outside of a moral and responsibility-centered lens. Approaching substance use education as an issue of morality and responsibility reinforces stigma and stereotypes. Substance use-associated stigma has a variety of consequences, some of which include prejudice, discrimination, and limited healthcare access. Despite these issues, education has the potential to vastly improve the understanding of substances and reduce substance-related morbidity and mortality. This thesis aims to help shift the paradigm towards developing interventions that reduce the risk of developing a substance use disorder while simultaneously working towards reducing socially ingrained stigma regarding substance use.


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