Validity of Self-Reported Drug Use in Population Surveys

Lana D. Harrison, Principal Investigator
Steven S. Martin, Co-Principal Investigator

Initiated: 1998

Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Project Summary:

This study sought to fill a void in our knowledge about the validity of survey data on drug use among the general population. General population surveys were major sources of individual-level social indicator data in the U.S. We relied on surveys to relay our national attitudes/behaviors on abortion, gun control, political affiliation, and a myriad of other areas including drug use. Respondents may misreport due to memory lapse, poor comprehension, or desire to deceive-either to conceal undesirable attitudes or to exaggerate desirable ones. Deception is often thought to be related to perceived social desirability, and reports of drug use-an illegal and socially proscribed behavior—are prime candidates for selected editing. The goal of this study was to establish methods to estimate misreporting and to encourage honest reporting.

Select Publications:

Harrison, Lana D. 1994. “The Validity of Self-Reported Data on Drug Use.” Journal of Drug Issues 2 (1): 1-20.

Harrison, Lana D. 1997. “The Validity of Self-Reported Drug Use in Survey Research: An Overview and Critique of Research Methods.” Pp. 17-36 in The Validity of Self-Reported Drug Use: Improving the Accuracy of Survey Estates edited by Lana D. Harrison and Arthur H. Hughes. Rockville, MD: NIDA Research Monograph 167.

Harrison, Lana D., Martin, Steven S., Enev, Tiho, and Harrington, Deborah. 2007. Comparing Drug Testing and Self-Report of Drug Use among Youths and Young Adults in the General Population. Rockville, MD: DHHS Publication No. SMA 07-4249.