1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse:  Preliminary Results

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A variety of other substance abuse surveys are useful in providing the context for the NHSDA, and are discussed below.

I. Other National Surveys of Illicit Drug Use

Monitoring the Future (MTF)

Monitoring the Future (MTF) is a national survey that tracks drug use trends among America’s Adolescents. This survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders with followups of college and young adults has been conducted annually since 1975 by the University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, under a grant from NIDA. The survey is conducted every spring in randomly selected schools in the U.S. The 1997 results were released in a press release in December 1997 (U.S. DHHS 1997). For all three grades combined, there were about 427 public and private schools and about 51,000 students in the sample, for an average of approximately 142 schools and 17,000 students per grade.

Comparisons between the MTF and the students sampled in the NHSDA have generally shown NHSDA prevalences to be lower than MTF estimates, with the relative differences being largest for 8th graders. The direction of the estimates of change from year to year among 12th graders have generally been similar. Both surveys have shown significant increases in illicit drug use among adolescents between 1992 and 1996. The MTF survey showed that the use of illegal drugs by adolescents leveled off for most drugs in 1997, while the NHSDA showed an increase in the use of illicit drugs among youths during this time period. The lower prevalences in the NHSDA may be due to more underreporting in the household setting than in the MTF school setting. MTF does not survey dropouts, a group shown (using the NHSDA) to have higher rates of use (Gfroerer, Wright, and Kopstein 1997). For a single grade, the NHSDA sample sizes are much smaller than the MTF sample sizes.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)

The YRBS is a component of CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which biennially measures the prevalence of priority health-risk behaviors among youths through representative national, state, and local surveys (CDC, 1998). The 1997 national YRBS used a three-stage cluster sample to obtain a representative sample of 16,262 students in grades 9-12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In general, the survey has found higher rates of alcohol, cigarette, marijuana, and cocaine use for youths than were found in the NHSDA.

National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health)

In 1994-6, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) was conducted to measure the effects of family, peer group, school, neighborhood, religious institution, and community influences on health risks such as tobacco, drug, and alcohol use. The survey also asked about substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs). The survey consisted of three phases: 1) Roughly 90,000 students from grades 7 through 12 at 145 schools around the U.S. answered brief questionnaires; 2) interviews were conducted with about 20,000 students and their parents in the students’ homes; and 3) one year later, students were interviewed a second time in their homes. Preliminary results from the survey indicate that nearly one-third of teenagers reported having smoked marijuana; 6.9 percent of 7th-8th gradersused marijuana at least once in the past month as did 15.7 percent of 9th-12th graders (Resnick, et.al. 1997).

Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS)

In 1998, the Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) released results of the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), the only on-going national research that tracks drug use and drug related attitudes among children as young as eight and nine, teens, and their parents. The study documented a gap between parents’ perceptions about their children and drugs and what teenagers and children are actually experiencing (PDFA, 1998). PATS found that 4th, 5th, and 6th-graders continue to be exposed to drug use, have weaker anti-drug attitudes and are more tolerant of drug use than they were in 1993. There was no significant increase in past month marijuana use among younger teens (in grades 7 through 10) from 1996 to 1997. Past month marijuana use among 11th and 12th graders increased from 26% in 1996 to 31% in 1997.

National Pregnancy and Health Survey (NPHS)

The National Pregnancy and Health Survey (NPHS) was conducted in 1992-1993 (NIDA 1996). Sponsored by NIDA, it was the first probability survey specifically designed to provide extensive information on the nature and extent of substance abuse among women delivering live-born infants in the U.S. A random sample of 2,613 mothers delivering live borns at hospitals, selected to represent approximately 4 million women delivering live borns, was interviewed between 6 and 36 hours after delivery (while they were still in the hospital) about their use of substances during pregnancy. The survey estimated that 5.5 percent of all women delivering live borns had used illicit drugs at some time during their pregnancy. Alcohol was used by 18.8 percent and cigarettes were used by 20.4 percent. Consistent with the NHSDA, the NPHS found that while 4.6 percent of these women had used marijuana during the past 12 months (defined as use during pregnancy or use in the three months before their pregnancy), only about 1.5 percent used marijuana during the second and third trimesters of the pregnancy. The 1995 and 1996 NHSDAs found that while 9.0 percent of pregnant women reported use of marijuana in the past year, only 1.6 percent reported use in the past month, while the 1997 NHSDA reported 10.4 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.

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This page was last updated on February 05, 2009.