National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)?

    The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provides national and state-level data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs) and mental health in the United States. NSDUH began in 1971 and is currently conducted on an annual basis.

    NSDUH is authorized by Section 505 of the Public Health Service Act, which requires annual surveys to collect data on the level and patterns of substance use.

    This year approximately 70,000 individuals, age 12 and older, will be randomly selected from all over the United States and asked to participate.

    The primary objectives of NSDUH are to:

    • provide accurate data on the level and patterns of alcohol, tobacco and illegal substance use and abuse;
    • track trends in the use of alcohol, tobacco and various types of drugs;
    • assess the consequences of substance use and abuse; and
    • identify those groups at high risk for substance use and abuse.

  2. What is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)?

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an agency in the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). SAMHSA provides leadership and federal focus for the nation's mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. NSDUH helps facilitate this mission by monitoring the nature and extent of substance use in the United States, as well as the consequences of this use.

  3. How is the survey conducted?

    Under a competitive bidding process, SAMHSA selects a survey research organization to administer the NSDUH. Currently, RTI International is under contract to conduct the NSDUH through 2017. Located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and closely associated with the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and North Carolina State University, RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research organization that has successfully conducted the survey since 1988.

  4. How was I selected?

    A scientific random sample of households is selected across the United States, and a professional RTI interviewer makes a personal visit to each household. Once selected, no other household can be substituted for any reason. This practice is to ensure the NSDUH data represent the many different types of people in the United States.

    After answering a few general questions during the in-person visit by the interviewer, one or two members of your household may be asked to participate in the survey by completing an interview. It is possible no one will be selected for the interview.

    If you are selected, no other person can take your place. Since the survey is based on a random sample, you will represent more than 4,500 other United States residents. At the end of the completed interview, you will receive $30 in cash.

  5. What if I do not smoke, drink, or use drugs?

    In order to know the percentage of people who use these substances, we also need to know how many people do not. The responses of people who do not use drugs are just as important as the responses of people who do. While some questions ask about drug knowledge and experience, other questions ask about a number of health-related topics relevant for all people. You do not need to know anything about drugs to answer the questions.

  6. What will happen during the interview?

    A professional RTI interviewer personally visits each selected person to administer the interview using a laptop computer. No prior computer skills are necessary. Individuals answer most of the interview questions in private and enter their responses directly into the computer so even the interviewer does not know the answer entered. For some items, the interviewer reads the questions aloud and enters the responses given into the computer. The interview takes about an hour to complete. Persons who complete the interview receive $30 in cash at the end of the interview.

  7. Will my answers be kept confidential?

    Yes. Both SAMHSA and RTI International are committed to assuring complete confidentiality of all responses. Our interest is only in the combination of all responses nationwide not any one individual's answers. Participants' full names are never recorded or associated with their answers. 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.

    For more on confidentiality, click here.

  8. What is the Certificate of Participation?

    In appreciation for their help with this important study, individuals who complete the interview can receive a Certificate of Participation from the interviewer to confirm their participation in the NSDUH. Individuals may then be able to present the Certificate of Participation to school administration or other officials and receive school or community service credit. It is the individual's responsibility to make a request for credit. RTI International has not made any advance arrangements with any schools and receipt of school or community service credit cannot be guaranteed.

  9. What happens to my information?

    Each interview data file identified only by a code number is electronically transmitted to RTI International on the same day the interview is conducted. Combined with all other participants' answers, the data are then coded, totaled, and turned into statistics for analysis. As a quality control measure, you may receive a telephone call or a letter from RTI to verify the interviewer completed the interview with you in a professional manner.

  10. How are the data from the survey used?

    Many government agencies, private organizations, individual researchers, and the public at large use the data for a number of purposes. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service and state health agencies use the data to estimate the need for treatment facilities. Other federal, state, and local agencies use the information to support prevention programs and monitor drug control strategies.

    For a list of who uses NSDUH data, click here.

For more information on NSDUH, 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
3040 Cornwallis Road
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

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