How to get more out of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health
By Art Hughes and Rachel Lipari
A recently released NSDUH Report on state-level underage alcohol use and self-purchase of alcohol showed that rates varied somewhat from state to state.
Information on other state-level substance use and mental health measures can be found here.
Often the first question we get after the release of state-level results is “So why are we seeing differences between states?” or “Can NSDUH help me understand underage drinking in my state?”
These are good questions that can be partially addressed by examining additional data collected from NSDUH.
For example, underage drinking rates by gender, metropolitan/non-metropolitan area, and other demographic characteristics may provide the level of detail needed. Below I will provide more details about NSDUH and will direct you to resources that will allow you to do your own analysis.
Q: What is the National Survey on Drug Use and Health all about?
A: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is the primary source of statistical information on the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco and also provides information on mental health problems and receipt of mental health services.
We collect data from the civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 12 years old or older residing in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey covers residents of households (persons living in houses/townhouses, apartments, condominiums; civilians living in housing on military bases, etc.) and persons in noninstitutional group quarters such as shelters, rooming/boarding houses, college dormitories, migratory workers’ camps, and halfway houses.
Excluded from the survey are persons with no fixed household address (e.g., homeless and/or transient persons not in shelters), active-duty military personnel, and residents of institutional group quarters, such as correctional facilities, nursing homes, mental institutions, and long-term hospitals.
We collect data through face-to-face interviews from persons selected at random and the interviews take place at the person’s place of residence. In addition to state-level estimates, NSDUH provides national, and substate, metropolitan area estimates. For more information about NSDUH reports and methodology go to http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH.aspx and http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k12/NSDUH2009MRB/Index.aspx
Q: Are NSDUH public-use datasets available that I can use to conduct state-level analyses on my own?
A: Yes, customized state-level NSDUH tables can be produced through the Restricted Data Analysis System (R-DAS). R-DAS is accessible on a secure server but the actual micro data will not be available for download. Disclosure limitation measures will be embedded in the R-DAS to ensure that any output will have no disclosures of confidential data. Currently, the years available for state-level analysis are 2002-2005 combined, 2006-2009 combined, and 2002-2009 combined. In the near future, R-DAS files based on two years of combined data will become available. An FAQ on the R-DAS and another system (the Data Portal) provides some information about these two systems. Sign up to receive updates on the future developments of these systems. Also see our report that describes the ways national and state-level NSDUH data can be accessed.
Q: Ok, so where can I find more information about what the Federal government is doing to reduce underage alcohol use?
A: SAMHSA and her partners in HHS and other agencies are involved in a variety of activities with the overall goal of reducing underage alcohol nationwide and the communities we live in. See below for additional information.
Communities that Care Curriculum: http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Communities-That-Care-Curriculum/PEP12-CTCPPT
2010 Town Hall Meetings: Mobilizing Communities To Prevent and Reduce Underage Alcohol Use: http://store.samhsa.gov/product/2010-Town-Hall-Meetings-Mobilizing-Communities-To-Prevent-and-Reduce-Underage-Alcohol-Use/SMA12-4448