New Report Exposes Gap Between Self-Reported Drug Use and Actual Drug Use

Jul 01, 2015, 13:27 ET from Abt Associates

BETHESDA, Md., July 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The gap between the truth and reality in self-reporting of illegal drug use varies by the drug being used, by the region of the country, and by the characteristics of the user.  This is one of the key findings in a new report written by researchers at Abt Associates, and published in the Journal of Drug Issues.  The report examines the validity of self-reporting of drug use among male arrests by comparing anonymous arrestee interview information to drug tests. 

Other findings in the report include:

  • For marijuana, there is a high level of willingness to admit use in all age groups in all sites.
  • Younger users are less likely to admit using cocaine.  There is an increase in willingness among those in their 30s, and then a decline among older users. 
  • A significant increase in the percentage of young users testing positive for heroin but failing to admit that use points to a serious and increasing heroin problem that is not revealed through self-reporting alone.

"Policymakers rely on information from drug use surveys to determine how best to use resources and to assess the effectiveness of policy changes and prevention campaigns," said Dana Hunt, Ph.D., a Principal Scientist at Abt Associates.  "That's why it's important to better understand the factors impacting self-reporting drug usage, and how we can account for those factors to develop a clearer picture of what's happening in communities across America."

The paper's authors utilized data from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) survey, which includes a 20-minute interview and urine testing.  The interview and sample collection includes only those adult males who have been arrested within the prior 48 hours.  The authors used ADAM data from 2000 – 2003 and 2007 – 2011, and from 10 U.S. counties, which are referred to in the report by the name of the large city in the county.  The 10 counties in the study are:  Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C.

The interview and urine testing were anonymous and confidential.  Respondents could refuse to participate or continue at any time, and were told of the request for a specimen at the beginning of the consent process.

Read the full report.

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.

SOURCE Abt Associates