An Experiment to Improve the Validity of Self-Report Drug Use Data by Arrestees

Eric D. Wish, University of Maryland at College Park
George Yacoubian, Jr., University of Maryland

ABSTRACT
Previous works have consistently documented that responents underreport their recent use of illegal drugs. Despite this problem, few works have experimented with methods that might improve the validity of self-report drug use data. In the current study, arrestees surveyed through the Substance Abuse Need for Treatment among Arrestees (SANTA) study were randomly assigned to one of three manipulations. The first--the standard SANTA collection procedure--collected a urine specimen after the survey had been completed. The second condition required an instant urine test be administered and its results shared with the arrestee prior to administration of the survey. The third condition required an instant saliva test be administered and its results shared with the arrestee prior to administration of the survey. We hypothesized that respondents who were informed of their saliva specimen results prior to the administration of a drug use survey would be more likely to self-report illegal drug using behaviors, and be diagnosed dependent, than they would under the standard or instant urine procedures. Implications for the future of drug use research are assessed in light of the generated findings.

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Updated 05/20/2006