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Are cannabis prevalence estimates comparable across countries and regions?: a cross cultural validation using search engine query data
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
2013 (English)In: International journal on drug policy, ISSN 0955-3959, E-ISSN 1873-4758, Vol. 24, no 1, 23-29 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Prevalence estimation of cannabis use is usually based on self-report data. Although there is evidence on the reliability of this data source, its cross-cultural validity is still a major concern. External objective criteria are needed for this purpose. In this study, cannabis-related search engine query data are used as an external criterion. Methods: Data on cannabis use were taken from the 2007 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). Provincial data came from three Italian nation-wide studies using the same methodology (2006-2008; ESPAD-Italia). Information on cannabis-related search engine query data was based on Google search volume indices (GSI). (1) Reliability analysis was conducted for GSI. (2) Latent measurement models of true cannabis prevalence were tested using perceived availability, web-based cannabis searches and self-reported prevalence as indicators. (3) Structure models were set up to test the influences of response tendencies and geographical position (latitude, longitude). In order to test the stability of the models, analyses were conducted on country level (Europe, US) and on provincial level in Italy. Results: Cannabis-related GSI were found to be highly reliable and constant over time. The overall measurement model was highly significant in both data sets. On country level, no significant effects of response bias indicators and geographical position on perceived availability, web-based cannabis searches and self-reported prevalence were found. On provincial level, latitude had a significant positive effect on availability indicating that perceived availability of cannabis in northern Italy was higher than expected from the other indicators. Conclusion: Although GSI showed weaker associations with cannabis use than perceived availability, the findings underline the external validity and usefulness of search engine query data as external criteria. The findings suggest an acceptable relative comparability of national (provincial) prevalence estimates of cannabis use that are based on a common survey methodology. Search engine query data are a too weak indicator to base prevalence estimations on this source only, but in combination with other sources (waste water analysis, sales of cigarette paper) they may provide satisfactory estimates.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 24, no 1, 23-29 p.
Keyword [en]
Cannabis use prevalence, Cultural effects, Validation, School survey
National Category
Substance Abuse
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88331DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2012.05.002ISI: 000314145800009OAI: diva2:611776


Available from: 2013-03-18 Created: 2013-03-12 Last updated: 2013-03-18Bibliographically approved

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Kraus, Ludwig
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