Illicit or Illegal Drug Use - YRBS

The questions provided by this tool come from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) which is part of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). With versions available for middle school and high school, this survey is designed to assess priority health-risk behaviors in youth and young adults.  Behaviors examined are those that are leading contributors to death, disability, and social problems in this young population, and include tobacco use, unhealthy dietary behaviors, inadequate physical activity, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), and behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence. This tool is free and publicly available. English only.



Administration Method
Number of Questions
Creator(s) of Tool
Complete measurement tool reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2004). Methodology of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. MMWR 2004; 53 (No. RR-12).

Adaptation made/subset of questions selected: “During your life” was replaced with “During the past 30 days” and “how many times” was omitted. Response values were replaced with yes/no.

Complete measurement tool hyperlink:
Scoring / Benchmarking
Before analyzing the data, code answer options as follows:

To create a summary score, count the total number of people who answered “yes” to any of the questions and divide by the total number of respondents.

Target goals/benchmarks for this outcome in 2012 were set by SAMHSA (FY 2012 Online Performance Appendix: as the following:
•Decreased drug use: At least 92.3 percent of participants (age 12-17) who used illicit drugs at pre-test must report a decrease in 30-day use at post-test
•Abstaining from drugs: At least 94.9 percent of participants (age 12-17) who report no illicit drug use at pre-test must remain non-users at post-test.

YRBS 2009 and SAMHSA data suggest that the following prevalence rates for the use of hard drugs and or the nom-medical use of prescription drugs.
•SAMHSA data suggest that 5 percent of youth age 12 and up report use of other illicit drugs in the past 30 days.
• YRBS 2009 data suggest that 2.8 percent of high school students report recent use of any form of cocaine one or more times (for example, powder, crack, or freebase)

These prevalence rates may inform the benchmarks you decide to set for your program. For example, a program serving middle school and high school students with a baseline prevalence rate of 10 percent current illicit drug use, may seek to set a performance benchmark of 5 percent whereas a program with a baseline prevalence rate of 5 percent may seek to set a performance benchmark of 1 percent illicit drug use.

It is reasonable to expect that the percent of youth reporting current and lifetime drug use will increase over time, however if you find that lifetime illicit or illegal drug use is increasing significantly or that the percent of your participants who currently use illicit or illegal drugs increases significantly, you may want to assess the fidelity and quality of service delivery (see Managing Service Delivery).
Background / Quality
Other studies that use this tool include:
Santelli, J.S., Robin, L., Brener, N.D., & Lowry, R. (2001). Timing of alcohol and other drug use and sexual risk behaviors among unmarried adolescents and young adults. Family Planning Perspectives, 33, 200-205. doi:10.2307/2673782
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