November 4, 2010

Study shows teens provide socially acceptable responses even in face of drug testing

A recent study by researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine showed that both teens and parents substantially underreported drug use, even when they had knowledge that a certificate of confidentiality protected them as a participant in the research study.

Analysis of teen hair specimens were 52 times more likely to identify cocaine use when compared to self-reported use, said Virginia Delaney-Black, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Pediatrics at Wayne State University's School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Michigan, and lead author of the study. Parent specimens were 6.5 times more likely to indicate cocaine use when compared to self-reported use.

"These findings confirm prior reports of adult underreporting of their own drug use while extending our understanding of teen self-admitted drug use," Dr. Delaney-Black said. "Health care providers and others who need to know about teen drug use should consider additional methods of ascertainment other than self- or parent-report to verify teen drug use prevalence."

The study, available online and to be published in the Nov. 5 issue of Pediatrics, verified that teen self-reported drug use numbers matched those from national anonymous surveys of black adolescents, suggesting that previous studies drastically underestimated drug use, particularly of cocaine and opiates, in teens.

"Concern about the potential risks of drug-use admission, perceived social acceptability of reporting drug use or anxiety that parents may find out about their drug use may account for teens' preference to say 'I don't,'" Dr. Delaney-Black said.

In addition to Dr. Delaney-Black, other WSU researchers who co-authored the study included Lisa M. Chiodo, Ph.D; John H. Hannigan, Ph.D.; Mark K. Greenwald, Ph.D.; James Janisse, Ph.D.; Grace Patterson; Joel Ager, Ph.D. Robert J. Sokol, M.D.; and Marilyn A. Huestis, Ph.D., of the Chemistry and Drug Metabolism Section of the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, also co-wrote the study. To view the full study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health, visist

Subscribe to Today@Wayne

Direct to your inbox twice a week