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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2002 May 1;66(3):243-53.

Are drunk-driving offenders referred for screening accurately reporting their drug use?

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Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest, 6624 Gulton Court NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, USA.


Several studies report that a substantial percentage of offenders arrested for impaired driving test positive for drugs of abuse besides alcohol. Current guidelines recommend screening offenders for both alcohol and other drug use, yet little is known about the accuracy of self-reports of drug use in this population. We compared drug abuse and dependence DSM-III-R diagnoses from an initial, court-ordered screening evaluation of 583 female and 495 male convicted drunk-driving offenders with diagnoses obtained via a voluntary, non-coerced interview 5 years later. At initial screening, fewer than 6% of offenders were diagnosed with drug abuse or dependence. Among offenders who did not receive an initial drug diagnosis, 28% subsequently reported having experienced drug use problems consistent with a retrospective diagnosis of drug abuse or dependence by the age at which they were screened. Half of those with a retrospective diagnosis of drug dependence reported their initial screening responses were "very accurate". We conclude that, although many drunk-driving offenders undergoing screening have diagnosable drug problems, a high proportion under-report their drug use. We suggest that certain modifications to screening procedures, such as urine drug screening, reducing barriers to treatment, and training counselors in motivational interviewing techniques, may increase accurate identification of drug use problems in this population.

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