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Validity of Self-Reported Drug Use in Survey Research: An Overview and Critique of Research Methods (From The Validity of Self-Reported Drug Use: Improving the Accuracy of Survey Estimates, P 17-36, 1997, Lana Harrison and Arthur Hughes, eds. - See NCJ 167339)

NCJ Number
L Harrison
Date Published
20 pages
This article examines the research literature on validation studies to provide an overview of what is known about the accuracy of self-reported drug use.
At this point, it is not possible to judge how accurately individuals report their drug use in surveys. The largest problem with most external criteria validation studies is that results are inherently not generalizable. Criminal justice populations, the individuals most often tested, may be less honest because they could be heavily penalized if their drug use were known to authorities. Thus, validity rates for this group cannot be generalized to the overall population. In addition, the research literature suggests that the validity of self-report varies by population subgroup. However, research does suggest some conclusions about the validity of survey data on self-reported drug use: (1) There are differences in self-reporting by drug type; (2) More stigmatized drugs such as cocaine are the least validly reported; (3) The more recent the drug use, the more reporting bias; (4) Questionnaires produce higher prevalence rates than oral interviews; and (5) Differences in interviewer styles and presentation influence validity. References