Drug, alcohol survey mailing will start Feb. 8

A survey on alcohol and drug use on campus that may be the first of its type in the nation will be mailed on a staggered basis to 4,500 members of the University community beginning Feb. 8.

The survey, supported by a grant from the Michigan Department of Public Health, will be used as a planning tool by members of the Initiative on Alcohol and Other Drugs, says psychiatry Prof. Frederick B. Glaser, head of the initiative and director of the U-M Substance Abuse Center.

“We want to assess the size and dimension of problems related to the use of alcohol and other drugs on campus,” Glaser says. “Most of the questions refer to norms. Our goal is to work through those norms to prevent serious problems, but we need to know what they are. Any educational and intervention programs we develop will be very much guided by the survey results.”

Glaser says that to his knowledge, no one has ever surveyed an entire university community about these issues. Generally they have been directed at students, but none have collected systematic information from faculty and staff.

“No one has any idea whether drinking or the use of drugs by one segment of the community affects the other. Is there a relationship? Is it important? These are the things we’d like to know.”

Andrea Foote, chair of the six-member group that designed the survey, says the survey will be sent to random samples of 1,500 undergraduate students, 1,000 graduate and professional students, and 2,000 faculty and staff members.

Foote, who is an associate research scientist with the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, says the survey will be sent to students first so that it can be returned before the term break.

Completion of the survey is expected to take about 20 minutes, and Foote emphasizes that it is “strictly anonymous. We know who we are sending the survey to, but it has no identifying information when it comes back.”

There are approximately 44 questions about alcohol and other drugs, including tobacco use, that focus on one’s own attitude and perceptions of others’ attitudes, as well as questions about positive and negative consequences of the use of alcohol and other drugs, and questions about the respondent’s background.

The Initiative on Alcohol and Other Drugs grew out of a task force on that topic that worked in 1989–91 to develop recommendations related to alcohol and other drugs. The task force decided against a policy of prohibiting alcohol at the University, preferring an approach that supports safe and healthy use. The task force recommended conducting a survey to identify individuals’ concerns, as well as to determine what people see as acceptable and unacceptable, to get input for the development of programs and policies, and to assess basic patterns of alcohol and dug use.


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