The first step is to create a descriptive profile of the problem—NMUPD among high school-age youth—and the related behaviors (i.e., consumption patterns and consequences) as they manifest within your community.
Quantitative data show how often an event or behavior occurs or to what degree it exists.32 These data are usually reported numerically, often as counts or percentages.
- Percentage of high school students reporting current (past 30 day) NMUPD
- Percentage of high school-age youth of varying demographics (age, gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, educational attainment, etc.) reporting lifetime NMUPD
- Average age of first misuse or abuse of stimulants (or other category of prescription drug)
- Number of prescription drug-related emergency room visits among 14–18 year olds
- Number of prescription drug-related arrests involving 14–18 year olds
- Number of prescription drug-related school disciplinary incidents
In addition to self-reported survey data, quantitative data can be mined from archival data sources, such as police reports, school incident and discipline reports, court records, hospital discharge data, and ED data (see Archival and Survey Data Sources—A Community Data Checklist).
To define the needs of your community specific to substance misuse and abuse, problems and related behaviors are typically thought of in terms of consumption and consequence patterns. Both types of information may be collected from various quantitative data sources.
Data on consumption (use) patterns describe NMUPD in terms of the frequency or amount used.
- Percentage of high school students reporting current (past 30 days) non-medical use of prescription opioids
- Percentage of high school students reporting past-year non-medical use of prescription stimulants
- Percentage of high school students reporting non-medical use of prescription sedatives within their lifetime
While these types of data are often collected by national or state surveys, local data specific to your community may not be as readily available. When collecting community data, try to use the same questions and wording as the national and state surveys. Many items in these instruments have been rigorously tested across multiple settings and may serve as good sources of comparative data in certain instances.
Data on consequences can help you better understand the extent of the problem of NMUPD among high school-age youth in your community. NMUPD is associated with many social, economic, and health problems, including increased risk of overdose, injury, and death; delinquency and/or violent behavior; and poor academic performance.33
- Number of prescription drug-related arrests
- School incident and discipline reports
- Emergency department admittances and hospital discharge data
This information may have to be compiled locally from different sources (such as schools, the police department, and hospitals).
Qualitative data may help you gain a deeper understanding of the substance misuse and abuse problem within your community by offering insight into the beliefs, attitudes, and values of various stakeholders, and may help explain why people behave or feel the way they do.33 Common methods for obtaining qualitative data include key stakeholder interviews and focus groups.
When collecting qualitative data, it is important to use methods that are culturally competent and appropriate. For example:
- When developing your interview or focus group guide, carefully review all questions to make sure that they will not be perceived as too personal or inappropriate.
- Consider any translation needs, and make sure that the interviewers or group facilitators reflect the composition of the group being interviewed.
- Select an accessible meeting space, and consider providing childcare where appropriate.
It is important to assess any differences among sub-groups, defined by characteristics such as gender, grade, race, ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation, that may be differentially related to NMUPD consumption patterns.
Beginning your assessment with an examination of the nature and extent of NMUPD will help you focus your assessment of intervening variables and capacity to those items that are most relevant to the local manifestation of NMUPD and, more importantly, to the identified group(s) or sub-groups.