Strengths And Limitations Of The Nhsda

Strengths. The major strengths of the NHSDA are its size, continuity, and national representativeness. The survey has a sample large enough to allow comparisons of drug-use prevalence among many different population subgroups each year and over time. The length of the questionnaire and amount of data collected provides a rich data base for examining the characteristics of drug abusers, the relationships of drug use with many demographic and other variables, and the changing patterns of drug use over time. The methodology used, while expensive, has been extensively evaluated and found to be effective (relative to other methodologies) in eliciting valid data from respondents. Through intensive call-back procedures, participation rates in the NHSDA have been excellent. The

1998 participation rate for the screening questionnaire was 93 percent and the participation rate for the main questionnaire was 77 percent.

Limitations. The survey does not cover certain populations likely to have heavy illicit drug use, such as the homeless and prison populations. While these missing populations, because they are small, make little difference in estimating MARIJUANA or ALCOHOL prevalence, rarer behaviors such as HEROIN or Crack use may be severely underestimated by the NHSDA. Data validity from the survey is also in question because of the self-report methods employed and the voluntary nature of the survey.

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