NSDUH is now one of the largest annual surveys of the household population conducted by the federal government, with approximately 67,000 respondents in 2007, and it represents several methodological improvements over its predecessor, the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA).
These improvements have increased response rates and likely also improved data quality.
NSDUH remains a critical data source in understanding trends and correlates associated with illegal drug use.
Given the importance of these data, it is a high priority to improve NSDUH’s utility for both policy making and research.
The committee expressed concern that access to critical prevalence datasets was unreasonably restricted.
It recommended, for example, that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) work out arrangements along the lines developed by the National Center for Educational Statistics to allow researchers to work with restricted datasets in a way that preserves confidentiality but still allows full utilization of the data.The committee recommends that the National Survey of Drug Use and Health follow current best practices methodologies and be more systematically and explicitly coordinated with other high-quality datasets in areas important to substance abuse.One example of such a dataset is the National Comorbidity Study and its successors, which provide valuable instruments in screening for psychiatric disorders and in understanding barriers to the treatment of such conditions.And although the prevalence of illegal use is below the highest levels achieved in the late 1970s (for marijuana) and in the mid-1980s (for cocaine), it has remained stubbornly high.For many young people today, occasional marijuana use is a part of adolescent development, as it has been since the birth cohort of about 1960.The number of people incarcerated for drug offenses on any given day has risen from less than 50,000 in the early 1980s to about 500,000 in 2005, including many held in local jails (Caulkins and Chandler, 2006).Treatment has expanded substantially, and much has been learned about what constitutes effective treatment.Research to improve and scrutinize such methods as respondent-driven sampling deserve priority, given that nontraditional survey methodologies are required to reach such hidden populations as street-injection drug users.Methodological research on the impact of respondent incentive payments on research participation, for example, would be quite valuable.Some of these improvements reflect the need to implement recommendations offered in the previous National Research Council (2001) report, The committee recommends that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and other national surveys expand their data collection efforts to more effectively survey subpopulations with high prevalence of substance use.In the specific case of NSDUH, we recommend that methods be developed to survey the institutionalized populations that are currently excluded from the data.