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J Subst Abuse Treat. 2002 Jan;22(1):11-22.

Selecting data sources for substance abuse services research.

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Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Heller Graduate School, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA.


In this article we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of using different types of data sources for alcohol and drug abuse services research. To do this, we describe four types of data sources used in substance abuse services research: surveys of organizations, medical records, claim and encounter data and program-level administrative data. For each, we outline where to obtain data, how each type has been used, and the advantages and challenges. This overview should allow investigators to think more critically about the datasets they now use; providers to understand the types of data sources most appropriate for specific research questions so as to participate more fully in research; and policy makers to interpret correctly results based on different types of data. Moreover, it should foster better communication among these stakeholders in collaborative projects to improve the effectiveness of services for people with addictions.

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