Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Thomas Nicholson, Lisa Lindley, John White


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Degree Program

Department of Public Health

Degree Type

Master of Science


This study is a sub-analysis of the Internet based DRUGNET survey that was designed to research the under-studied population of self-identified recreational adult drug users. It assesses the presence of clinical signs of drug dependence among 541 respondents who completed the survey between December 1997 and June 1998. Data analysis revealed that the sample was predominantly Caucasian (n=479, 88.5%), male (n=411, 76%), employed full-time (n=373, 68.9%), and had a mean age of 30.84 years. Using questions based on DSM III-R criteria, 148 (27.4%) users reported three or more symptoms of dependence during their lifetime use with 119 (22%) reporting no symptoms of dependence. A principal components analysis of the clinical indicators suggested a two component solution which explained 43.3% of the total variance in the study sample. However, rotation of the factors indicated that medical indicators of suffering withdrawal and having difficulty stopping use loaded on one factor, while treatment and having had problems with the legal system loaded on the other factor. The implication is that encounters with law enforcement were driving treatment among the study sample and that scarce treatment resources were being wasted on the wrong subset of this population. Alternatively, nonabusive drug users may not need treatment for dependence but may be engaging in risky behaviors that can be addressed through harm reduction interventions.


Medicine and Health Sciences | Public Health