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At the same time use of diverted prescription drugs has been rising.
Both policy analysis and social science research require the ability to systematically link such data with a rich set of variables regarding personal circumstances, public policies, and individual encounters with social service systems.
NSDUH (and its predecessor, NHSDA) have operationalized key variables in ways that undermine comparability with other available data and that are not always consistent over time.
It is important that policy makers and the public be aware of systematic limitations and potential biases when these data are used.
In addition, it would be helpful to policy makers and analysts if the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies would provide more extensive, explicit, and accessible guidance regarding the known limitations of existing data that might otherwise be miscommunicated or misused.
NSDUH remains a critical data source in understanding trends and correlates associated with illegal drug use.
Given the importance of these data, it is a high priority to improve NSDUH’s utility for both policy making and research.
The number of people incarcerated for drug offenses on any given day has risen from less than 50,000 in the early 1980s to about 500,000 in 2005, including many held in local jails (Caulkins and Chandler, 2006).
Treatment has expanded substantially, and much has been learned about what constitutes effective treatment.
The committee recommends that the National Survey of Drug Use and Health follow current best practices methodologies and be more systematically and explicitly coordinated with other high-quality datasets in areas important to substance abuse.
One example of such a dataset is the National Comorbidity Study and its successors, which provide valuable instruments in screening for psychiatric disorders and in understanding barriers to the treatment of such conditions.