National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Confidentiality

Both SAMHSA and RTI International are committed to assuring the complete confidentiality of all responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). We are only interested in the combination of all responses nationwide not in any one individual's answers. For that reason we never record participants' full names or associate answers with actual addresses.

All data participants provide are kept completely confidential and used only when combined with other answers to help see the "big picture" of patterns of tobacco, alcohol and drug use in the United States. Additionally, the confidentiality of the answers provided to the questions is protected under federal law by the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002(CIPSEA). By law, all responses can only be used for statistical purposes and cannot be used for any other purpose.

  1. What rights do I have on NSDUH? Is confidentiality a "right"?
  2. RTI International takes great precautions to ensure all its surveys, including NSDUH, uphold the rights of our participants. Like other research studies RTI conducts, NSDUH was reviewed by one of RTI's Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) before any interviews were conducted. The IRB reviews the study's protocol following guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office for Human Research Protections.

    In addition to protecting confidentiality, RTI and SAMHSA also protect every participant's right to informed consent, right to accurate representation of the study, right to refuse, and right to privacy. Confidentiality is considered a crucial part of the right to privacy and is vigorously upheld on NSDUH.

  3. What must RTI International tell individuals about the confidentiality of responses before they agree to participate?
  4. When an RTI interviewer makes a personal visit to your household, he or she is required to provide you with a Study Description outlining your rights as a participant. Among these rights, one of the most important is the right to privacy, which protects an individual's identity and any data they provide as part of the survey.

    This means RTI will never release any personally identifying information. In fact, interviewers do not collect names from persons who complete the interview. RTI keeps the address and interview information completely separate so these cannot be used to connect the responses with the address.

    Click here to view the NSDUH Study Description.

  5. How does RTI International protect confidentiality on NSDUH?
  6. The confidentiality of the answers provided to the questions is protected under federal law by the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002(CIPSEA). Any information collected is kept strictly confidential and can only be used for statistical purposes. Any project staff member or authorized data user who violates CIPSEA may be subject to criminal penalties, including a prison term of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. In addition, all NSDUH project staff complete annual training on confidentiality and CIPSEA.

  7. Does RTI International require interviewers and other researchers to sign a written statement to protect the confidentiality of the data?
  8. Yes. We require all project staff with access to NSDUH data sign a Confidentiality Agreement and all RTI interviewers sign a Data Collection Agreement. In signing these forms, each individual personally pledges to uphold the confidentiality of all data they collect, process, or analyze. Under the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002(CIPSEA), any violation of the agreement would make the individual subject to criminal penalties, including a prison term of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

    Failure to protect a participant's confidentiality can also result in immediate termination for that staff member. RTI takes this very seriously, as our company's reputation would be at risk if there were ever a breach of confidentiality.

  9. Has anyone ever tried to obtain confidential data from this study (such as subpoenaing an individual's answers on a court case)?
  10. No. There have been no instances of attempts to obtain any confidential data RTI International has collected in any study, including the years since RTI began collecting data for NSDUH in 1988.

For more information on NSDUH or confidentiality, contact one of the individuals listed below.

SAMHSA Contact RTI International Contact
Joel Kennet, Ph.D. David Hunter
National Study Director
Project Director
SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality RTI International
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 15E13D
Rockville, MD 20857
e-mail:Joel.Kennet@samhsa.hhs.gov
www.samhsa.gov/about-us/who-we-are/offices-centers/cbhsq
3040 Cornwallis Road
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
e-mail:dbc@rti.org
www.rti.org

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