The paper presents the major benefits and constraints of the web-based drug surveys by emphasizing that the former may far outweigh the latter for specific research questions and designs. The benefits of the online drug surveys are practical and methodological ones. In the former, the efficiency in costs, time and resources are presented as an asset of the web-based survey mode compared to conventional survey modes. The methodological advantages are associated with the online collection of more accurate and less biased drug data, the increased access to hidden drug populations and to respondents across diverse geographical and cultural settings. The major constraints of the web-based drug surveys involve methodological limitations associated with the non-random sampling, non-coverage and non-response errors that inhibit valid inferences to the general population. In defence of the online drug surveys, it is advocated that generalizable outcomes are not always the question at hand; hence the online data collection can be employed when indicative rather than generalizable drug data are needed. When statistical inference is the question at hand, the generalizability constraint can be adequately confronted in cross-sectional and cross-national web-based drug surveys targeting student sub-populations with universal web access providing at lower cost and more rapidly similarly generalizable outcomes with the conventional survey modes. It is concluded that the benefits of the online drug survey may far outweigh its limitations when researchers have the a priori knowledge of the survey mode’s appropriateness to provide valid answers to their specific research questions. In those cases the web-based drug surveys may effectively inform policies and programme responses to tackle drug use.
|Keywords:||Web-based Drug Surveys, Survey Modes, Benefits, Constraints, Student Populations|
Lecturer in Quantitative Methods in Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology, University of Crete, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
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