Campuswide alcohol, drug survey being pre-tested

By Jane R. Elgass

Pre-testing of a “path-breaking” survey on alcohol and drug use on campus is under way, with a final survey expected to be administered in late winter.

While design and content of the survey have drawn heavily on the Monitoring the Future survey of high school students and young adults done by Lloyd D. Johnston and his colleagues at the Institute for Social Research and the National Household Survey that focuses on adults, it is unique in several ways.

“We are surveying a large, complicated organization with three distinctly different populations—graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty and staff,” explains Andrea Foote, chair of the six-member committee that developed the survey. “And, more important, through the survey questions we are looking at norms, what people perceive to be acceptable behavior by their peers. The other surveys don’t seek that type of information.”

The survey is sponsored by the Initiative on Alcohol and Other Drugs, which grew out of a task force on that topic. The initiative’s charge is to help the University community deal with issues and problems related to the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. It is headed by psychiatry Prof. Frederick B. Glaser, who also is director of the U-M Substance Abuse Center.

Foote, who is an associate research scientist with the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, says the effort “is not a ‘Big Brother is watching you’ type of survey. We need better information to help us distinguish between what is going on vs. perceptions of what we think is going on.

“We will use the information to help us structure prevention and early intervention programs that are tailored to the needs of our three populations.”

The following types of information are being sought in the anonymous survey:

—Information on the kinds of alcohol and drugs individuals are using and how often.

—The kinds of social contexts in which individuals use drugs, particularly alcohol, and their attitudes toward use in those settings.

—Individuals’ perceptions of others in the University community—how much they think others use alcohol and other drugs and what those persons’ attitudes are.

—Information on personal consequence of use—such as “Did this ever happen to you?”

The final version of the survey will be administered to random samples of 1,500 persons in each of the three populations. There is a slightly different survey for each group because of the differing social contexts in which they work and live.

The pre-test is being administered to approximately 100 to 200 members of each population group. Some individuals already have been asked to participate and others will be in the near future.


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