Validating self-reports of illegal drug use to evaluate National Drug Control Policy: A reanalysis and critique
Illicit drug use remains at high levels in the U.S. The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy evaluates the outcomes of national drug demand reduction policies by assessing annual changes in drug use from several federally sponsored annual national surveys. Such survey methods, relying exclusively on drug use as self-reported on interviews or questionnaires, have been criticized by the United States Government Accountability Office as well as by independent experts, This paper critiques a major validity study of self-reported illicit drug use among youth commissioned by the federal government, showing that the favorable conclusions and summaries offered for public consumption are not warranted. Specifically, the findings of the validity study, which compared self-reports with urine tests, are consistent with prior research showing that self-reports substantially underestimate illicit drug use and can dramatically affect indicators of change. Thus, these national surveys are largely inadequate for evaluating national drug demand reduction policies and programs.
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