Data Needs for Monitoring Drug Problems

This chapter examines several types of data that are or should be regularly collected and disseminated by the federal government and other agencies to monitor the nation’s drug problems. We first describe and evaluate the main data systems providing information on drug use. We then discuss surveillance data that would be useful to provide early warnings of drug epidemics. Next we evaluate the System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) data, the primary existing series on drug prices and purity. Finally, we discuss how aggregate statistics on drug production, consumption, and prices could be incorporated into the national macroeconomic accounts.


Four datasets are widely used to monitor trends and cross-sectional patterns in drug use in the United States. Two are nationwide population surveys: Monitoring the Future (MTF) surveys school students, and the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA) surveys the noninstitutionalized residential population age 12 and over. These surveys are based on probability samples of known populations. Hence these data can be used to draw conventional statistical inferences about the surveyed populations.

The other two data systems sample events rather than persons: the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) surveys booked arrestees, and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) provides information on

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