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February 7, 2003

The National Survey on Drug

Use and Health (NSDUH)

he National Survey on Drug Use and
In Brief Health (NSDUH) is sponsored by the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health
z The National Survey on Drug Services Administration (SAMHSA). The
Use and Health (NSDUH) is survey has been conducted since 1971 and
the primary source of serves as the primary source of information
on the prevalence and incidence of illicit
information on the use of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in the civilian,
illegal drugs by the U.S. noninstitutionalized population aged 12 or
population older in the United States. Information
about substance abuse and dependence,
z Each year, about 70,000 mental health problems, and receipt of
individuals aged 12 or older substance abuse and mental health treatment
are surveyed across the 50 also is included. Since 1999, about 70,000
interviews are conducted each year using a
States and the District of computer-assisted interviewing (CAI)
Columbia methodology. Before 2002, the name of the
survey was the National Household Survey
z NSDUH public use files for on Drug Abuse (NHSDA).
1990 to 2001 and selected
earlier years are available for Sample Design
on-line analysis through the
The NSDUH collects information from resi-
Substance Abuse and dents of households, noninstitutional group
Mental Health Data Archive quarters (e.g., shelters, rooming houses,
(SAMHDA) dormitories), and civilians living on miliary
bases. Persons excluded from the survey

The NSDUH Report is published periodically by the Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(SAMHSA). All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission from SAMHSA.
Additional copies of this report or other reports from the Office of Applied Studies are available on-line:
Citation of the source is appreciated.

include homeless persons who do not survey, and 68,929 persons were in- Measures of the perceived risk of
use shelters, active-duty military per- terviewed. In 2001, the weighted re- harm from use of a number of illicit
sonnel, and residents of institutional sponse rate for screening was 92 drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes at
group quarters, such as prisons and percent, and the weighted response varying levels of use also are in-
long-term hospitals. The sample rate for interviewing was 73 percent. cluded.
employs a 50-State design with an Measures of substance abuse and
independent, multistage area prob- dependence and serious mental ill-
ability sample for each State and the Key Terms ness are based on criteria described
District of Columbia. The design A number of key measures of sub- in the Diagnostic and Statistical
provides a sample large enough to stance use and mental health are re- Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edi-
yield direct estimates of substance ported from the NSDUH data tion (DSM-IV).1
use in eight States with the largest (Table 1). For illicit drug use, alco- In addition to these key substan-
populations (California, Florida, Illi- hol use, and tobacco use, informa- tive terms, a number of demo-
nois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, tion is presented about use in the graphic and geographic charac-
Pennsylvania, and Texas). Small lifetime, past year, and past month. teristics are used in many analyses
area estimation techniques are used Use in the past month also is re- of the NSDUH data (Table 2).
to develop estimates for the remain- ferred to as “current use.” The sur-
ing 42 States and the District of Co- vey also produces measures of
lumbia. Data Processing
abuse, dependence, treatment, and
The design also oversamples mental health problems, generally Even though significant editing and
youths and young adults, so that for the past year. consistency checking occurs auto-
each State’s sample is distributed Measures for nine specific
equally among three age groups (12 classes of drugs are presented in
to 17 years, 18 to 25 years, and 26 Table 1. Key Measures of Sub-
analyses. These include the use of
years or older). stance Use and Mental Health
marijuana/hashish, cocaine (includ-
ing crack), inhalants, hallucinogens, Illicit drug use
Data Collection heroin, and prescription-type drugs Alcohol use
used nonmedically (pain relievers, Binge alcohol use
The data collection method is in-per- tranquilizers, stimulants, and seda- Heavy alcohol use
Tobacco use
son interviews conducted with a tives). Non-prescription medications Cigarette use
sample of individuals at their place and legitimate uses under a doctor’s Perceived risk of harm
of residence. Prior to 1999, the supervision are not included in the Substance dependence and abuse
NSDUH used a paper-and-pencil in- survey. Summary measures such as Substance abuse treatment
terviewing (PAPI) methodology. “any illicit drug use” and “any illicit Serious mental illness
Since 1999, the interview has been drug use other than marijuana” are Mental health treatment/counseling
carried out with CAI methodology. produced.
The survey uses a combination of In addition to a measure of any
computer-assisted personal-inter- alcohol use, measures of “binge” al- Table 2. Demographic and
viewing (CAPI) conducted by the in- cohol use and heavy use in the past Geographic Characteristics
terviewer for some basic demo- 30 days have been developed.
graphic information and audio com- “Binge” alcohol use is defined as Age
Age groups (12-17; 18-25; 26
puter-assisted self-interviewing having five or more drinks on the or older)
(ACASI) for most of the questions. same occasion at least once in the Single year of age and detailed
ACASI provides a highly private and 30 days prior to the survey, and age categories
confidential means of responding to “heavy” use is defined as having five Gender
questions to increase the level of or more drinks on the same occasion
Adult education
honest reporting of illicit drug use on at least 5 different days in the
Current employment
and other sensitive behavior. past 30 days.
Family income
Information is collected contin- The measure of tobacco use in- Health insurance
uously from January 1 through De- cludes use of cigarettes, chewing to- Geographic characteristics
cember 31. A total of 157,471 ad- bacco, snuff, cigars, and pipe to- Region and Census division
dresses were screened for the 2001 bacco. County type (metro/nonmetro)

matically during the interview, more Survey estimates considered to on the SAMHSA website. Develop-
complex edits and consistency be unreliable due to unacceptably ment of Computer-Assisted Inter-
checks are performed during the large sampling errors are omitted viewing Procedures for the National
processing of the data. For some from publications and denoted by an Household Survey on Drug Abuse3
key variables with missing or am- asterisk (*). documents field testing and pretest-
biguous values after editing, statisti- The statistical significance of ing of the CAI instrument, and Re-
cal imputation is used to replace the observed differences in the NSDUH designing an Ongoing National
missing data. The general ap- is generally reported at the 0.05 and Household Survey: Methodological
proach for developing analysis 0.01 levels. In reports on NSDUH Issues4 discusses statistical and
weights involves development of de- data, differences between groups or methodological issues concerning
sign-based weights and application years of the survey are generally the 1999 redesign of the NSDUH.
of adjustment factors to adjust for noted only if they are statistically A complete listing of previously
nonresponse, to poststratify to significant. published NSDUH reports is avail-
known population control totals, and able from SAMHSA’s Office of Ap-
control for extreme weights, when plied Studies. Many of these reports
necessary. Availability of Data and are available on the SAMHSA
Reports website.
The report titled Results from the The NSDUH Report, published
Sampling Error and approximately twice a month, pre-
Statistical Significance 2001 NHSDA provides an overview
of key findings and methodological sents key findings from the
National estimates, along with the procedures for the survey. The re- NSDUH. These reports are avail-
associated measures of precision, port is published annually. able by mail and are posted on the
are computed using a multipro- Recent analytic monographs SAMHSA website.
cedure software package, Survey published by SAMHSA using Associated with the release of the
Data Analysis (SUDAAN) Software NSDUH data include: Substance annual survey findings are detailed
for Statistical Analysis of Correlated Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment; tables presenting analyses of sub-
Data, which was designed for the Initiation of Marijuana Use: stance use and other measures by
statistical analysis of sample survey Trends, Patterns, and Implications; demographic and geographic char-
data from stratified, multistage clus- and State Estimates of Substance acteristics. These are also posted on
ter samples.2 The sampling error of Use from the 2000 NHSDA. the SAMHSA website.
an estimate is the error caused by Several reports on methodologi- Public use data files for 1979,
the selection of a sample rather than cal issues are also available. The 1982, 1985, 1988, and annually from
conducting a census of the popula- Methodological Resource Book 1990 to 2001 are currently available
tion. Sampling errors are used to (MRB) is produced annually. It in- through the Substance Abuse and
identify unreliable estimates and test cludes the questionnaire and infor- Mental Health Data Archive
for the statistical significance of dif- mation on data collection and data (SAMHDA) and the archive’s on-line
ferences between estimates. analysis procedures and is available data analysis system (http://
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
(NSDUH) is an annual survey sponsored by the
End Notes
Administration. (2001). Summary of findings
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services from the 2000 National Household Survey on 1. American Psychiatric Association. (1994).
Administration (SAMHSA). Drug Abuse (DHHS Publication No. SMA 01-3549, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental
The NSDUH Report is prepared by the Office of NHSDA Series: H-13). Rockville, MD: Author. disorders (4 ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Applied Studies (OAS), SAMHSA, and by RTI in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 2. RTI. (2001). SUDAAN user’s manual: Release
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Administration. (2002). Results from the 2001 8.0. Research Triangle Park, NC: Author.
Information and data for this issue are based on National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: 3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
the following publications: Volume I. Summary of national findings (DHHS Administration (2001). Development of Com-
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Publication No. SMA 02-3758, NHSDA Series: H- puter-Assisted Interviewing Procedures for the
Administration. (2000). Summary of findings 17). Rockville, MD: Author. National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
from the 1999 National Household Survey on Also available on-line: (DHHS Publication No. SMA 01-3514, Method-
Drug Abuse (DHHS Publication No. SMA 00-3466, ology Series: M-3). Rockville, MD: Author.
NHSDA Series: H-12). Rockville, MD: Author. 4. Gfroerer, J., Eyerman, J., and Chromy, J., Eds.
(2002). Redesigning an ongoing national
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES household survey: Methodological issues.
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration
Office of Applied Studies DHHS Publication No. SMA 03-3768. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Servi-
ces Administration, Office of Applied Studies.