Drug Use

Drug Use

An extensive set of questions on substance use was included in the 1984 survey and collected information on respondents' illicit and nonprescribed use of:

  • marijuana/hashish
  • amphetamines
  • barbiturates
  • tranquilizers
  • psychedelics
  • cocaine
  • heroin
  • other narcotics

  For each of these substances, information was collected on:

  • lifetime use
  • age at first use
  • most recent use
  • frequency of use during the past 30 days

In addition, retrospective data on respondents' monthly use of marijuana from January 1979 through the 1984 survey date were gathered. The extent of respondents' prescribed use of three types of drugs (amphetamines, barbiturates, and tranquilizers) was also collected. Respondents who were working or in the military were asked whether, since the date of last interview or since their job/military duty began, they had used or "felt high" from one or more of these substances and how frequently they had used each on the job.

A special Drug Use Supplement was administered during the 1988, 1992, 1994, and 1998 surveys to collect information on age at first use of marijuana/hashish, crack, cocaine, and other drugs; lifetime use; most recent use; and use in the past 30 days. The 1992, 1994, and 1998 questionnaires also asked about respondents' use of prescribed and nonprescribed sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants, and pain killers. Beginning in 1994, respondents were asked to directly enter their answers into a laptop computer.

Other drug use questions are found in (1) the 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1994-2018 fertility series, which included questions on use of marijuana or cocaine in the twelve-month period before first/second pregnancies (see the "Birth Record xxxx" areas of interest) and (2) the section of the 1980 survey, which gathered information on the frequency with which respondents were engaged during the past year in smoking/selling marijuana or other drugs (see the  Crime, Delinquency, & Arrest Records section of this guide).

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: Beginning in 1988, NLSY79 children ten years of age and older answered a series of questions on whether they had ever used marijuana or other drugs such as LSD or cocaine. 

The NLSY97 round 1 survey first established whether the respondent had ever used marijuana or other illicit drugs and asked for the respondent's age at first use. In subsequent rounds all respondents were asked whether they had used marijuana or other illicit drugs since the date of last interview. Each survey then collected additional information on the number of days the respondent smoked marijuana in the 30 days prior to the interview. Finally, questions determined the number of times the respondent used marijuana right before or during school or work in those 30 days. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.

Survey Instruments and Documentation The main set of drug use questions can be found in Section 14 of the 1984 and 1988 questionnaires and the 1988, 1992, 1994, and 1998 Drug Use Supplements. Section 9 of the 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1994-2016 questionnaires includes the drug use during pregnancy questions. Sections 15 and 16 of the 1980 survey instrument and Form J contain the illegal activities series.
Areas of Interest The "Drugs" area of interest on the main NLSY79 data set contains the drug use variables.