Comparison of Past Year Substance Use Estimates by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity Between Two Representative Samples of the U.S. Adult Population

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Population Research and Policy Review

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© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature. Comparative evaluations of national survey data can improve future survey design and sampling strategies thereby enhancing our ability to detect important population level trends. This paper presents differences in past year estimates of alcohol, cigarette, marijuana, and non-medical painkiller use prevalence by age, sex, and race/ethnicity between the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC-III) administered in 2012–2013. In general, estimates were higher for the NSDUH survey, but patterns of substance use prevalence were similar across race/ethnicity, age, and sex. Results show most significant differences in estimates, across substances, age groups, and sex were greatest among Hispanics, followed by non-Hispanic Whites, and non-Hispanic Blacks. Members of other racial/ethnic groups (e.g., Asian-American, Native American/Alaskan Native) were underrepresented in the NSDUH survey. In many cases, estimates for these subpopulations could not be calculated using the NSDUH data limiting our ability to draw comparisons with the NESARC estimates. Methodological differences in data collection for the NSDUH and NESARC surveys may have contributed to these findings. To promote effective population health surveillance methods, more work is needed to derive reliable and valid estimates from demographic subpopulations to better improve policymaking and intervention programming for at-risk populations.


Alcohol; Cigarette; Marijuana; NESARC; NSDUH; Painkiller; Prevalence


Public Health | Substance Abuse and Addiction



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