Assessing the Validity of Self-Reported Drug Use: The Role of Individual- and Aggregate-Level Characteristics

Gina R. Penly, University at Albany

An accurate understanding of drug use is an important antecedent to appropriate and effective enforcement, correctional, and treatment decisions. While drug use is most commonly measured using self-report surveys, the validity of responses is challenged because of the illicit nature and inherent social undesirability of the behavior. Self-reports are therefore commonly verified using the results of a urinalysis. Recent studies have illustrated that concordance rates between self-reports and drug tests may vary according to the type of drug used, situational factors, respondent characteristics and geographical site. While contextual factors that predict drug use, such as socioeconomic status and urbanization, have been of interest to researchers, there has been no indication of the role, if any, of such factors on the accuracy of drug use disclosure. Based on the social desirability hypothesis and elements of social disorganization theory, this study expands prior conceptions to include an analysis of aggregate-level characteristics on the validity of self-reported drug use. Using data from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program and aggregate-level census data, the proposed study seeks to measure the influence of individual and ecological characteristics on the disclosure of self-reported drug use.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006