National Drug Survey (NDSHS) Results Just Out: Truth or Dare? Are we in a RUT?
Part 1 of 2 Drug Survey TRUTH Remove the First And Last Letter and we have RUT
Are we in a rut in the way we collect and present critical data? This just released from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the latest and twelfth 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. At first glance, it looks promising. ‘Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol 28% in 2013, down to 18%” “98% up from 96% of teenagers have never smoked” Also declines were seen in meth/amphetamines (from 2.1% to 1.4%), hallucinogens (1.3% to 1.0%), and synthetic cannabinoids (1.2% to 0.3%)
Hang-on! Wait a minute! Maybe we are in a rut. This latest survey is the 12th that dates right back to the 80s. Are we blindly to believe these trends/data? The same methodology is used survey after survey costing money that might be better spent in preventative, supportive or program-directed ways. Yet, perhaps it’s a Truth or Dare Situation. Let’s say you’re a regular or dependent drug user and someone asks you to participate in a mixed collection mode survey (phone, on-line, drop and collect survey form)? How likely are you to fully report your situation? Would the numbers be different in a street instead of residential survey?
These numbers are bandied about and widely quoted by government officials, academics and even those who may have something to gain from misrepresentative figures, yet there appears to be a cloud over their validity (i.e. truthfulness ) Alasdair Forsyth in his article calls it out by saying, ‘If you use drugs, you must be very naive or very principled to answer a survey honestly’ (http://theconversation.com/if-you-use-drugs-you-must-be-very-naive-or-very-principled-to-answer-a-survey-honestly-28372) says, ‘ These data sets illustrate the problems researchers face when interpreting evidence of hidden behaviours. If drug use is illegal, and problem use is stigmatised, then estimations of their prevalence can seem “doubly dark figures” He goes on to say “This hints that the more you have to lose, the less likely you are to risk it. “
The Australian Institute of Criminology expands on this by saying that they found under-reporting to be greatest among those owner-occupiers, employed full-time, and aged over-30. (http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/publications/tandi_pdf/tandi260.pdf )
The sealer for me is the following ‘ A limitation of the survey is that people may not accurately report information relating to illicit drug use and related behaviours because these activities may be illegal. This means that results relating to illicit drugs may be under-reported by some people. The source of this is the very people who commissioned and reported this survey, namely AIHW (http://www.aihw.gov.au/alcohol-and-other-drugs/data-sources/about-ndshs/) Truth or Dare?
Part 2 of 2 presents other data which appears to be far more conclusive than this questionable survey. Here’s a sneak preview. Methamphetamine residue found in the wastewater of a Queensland city has multiplied five times since 2009 https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2016/03/waste-water-reveals-drug-secrets) University of Queensland scientists from The National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (Entox) worked with Professor Wayne Hall of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research to obtain the results. “However, when you view this together with other timely research, it is consistent with there being exponential growth in the number of users,” Professor Hall said. More on this soon.