National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011

2.3 Questionnaire

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In 2011, students completed a 16-page core questionnaire (refer to Appendix 1). The questionnaire covered the use of tobacco, alcohol, pain relievers, tranquilisers, and the use of illicit substances such as cannabis and hallucinogens. Questions assessing use of different substances were the same as those used in previous survey years. While the ‘street names’ of illicit substances were included in the survey, these names may have been unfamiliar to respondents. Therefore, where students indicated they did not know the substance, the substance name was read out and an effort was made to explain/describe it to them.

2.3.1 Tobacco questions

The questions on tobacco contained in the core questionnaire were identical to those used in previous survey years. Questions assessed ‘ever use’ of tobacco, use in the past 12 months, four weeks and on each of the seven days preceding the survey. Students who had used tobacco in the previous seven days were asked to indicate the usual brand they smoked, the usual packet size of the brand they smoked and the source of their last cigarette. If students indicated that someone else had bought the last cigarette for them, they were asked to indicate who this person was. Students also indicated their intention to smoke cigarettes in the next 12 months, and indicated whether they saw themselves as a non-smoker, an ex-smoker, an occasional smoker, a light smoker or a heavy smoker.

2.3.2 Alcohol questions

The alcohol-related questions contained in the questionnaire were similar to those used in previous surveys. Questions assessed ‘ever use’ of alcohol, use of alcohol in the past 12 months, past four weeks and on each of the seven days preceding the survey. Students who had ever used alcohol were asked to indicate the usual type of alcohol consumed (e.g. beer, wine, spirits, premixed), the source of their last alcoholic drink and where they consumed this drink. Students also indicated whether they saw themselves as a non-drinker, a party drinker, an occasional drinker, a light drinker or a heavy drinker. Two new alcohol-related questions were added to the 2011 survey. The first question asked students who had ever consumed alcohol to indicate if any of 19 specified outcomes or events occurred after they had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months. The outcomes and events included being sick (vomiting), arguing, being in a fight, verbally abusing someone, needing to go to the hospital and missing school. Students could indicate that none of the events listed had happened to them. In addition, students indicated how often they intended to get drunk when they consumed alcohol.

2.3.3 Over-the-counter and illicit drug questions

The over-the-counter and illicit substances covered in the questionnaire were analgesics, tranquilisers, cannabis, inhalants, hallucinogens, amphetamines, steroids, opiates, cocaine and ecstasy. For each substance, the technical name was used in the question and was accompanied by explanations, examples and alternative terminology to clarify the substance.

For each substance, students were asked to indicate the number of times, if ever, they had used or taken the substance in four time periods: past week, past four weeks, past year and their lifetime. Students could choose from seven response categories, ranging from ‘none’ to ‘40 or more times’. Questions concerning the use of tranquilisers, steroids, amphetamines and opiates explicitly asked about the non-medical use of these substances.

Students were also asked to indicate their reasons for using their last analgesic and how they obtained it. Students who had used tranquilisers were also asked how they obtained them. Students who had used tranquilisers, cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy and hallucinogens in the past year were asked if they had used any other substance(s) on the same occasion as using these substances. Students indicated the substances they had used from a list that included alcohol, tobacco, analgesics, tranquilisers, cannabis, amphetamines and hallucinogens. Students who had used cannabis in the past year were asked to indicate if they usually consumed it by themselves, with others, or by themselves and with others equally often. They were also asked to indicate where they usually used cannabis and how it was usually used (e.g. joint, bong, as food).

To reduce order effects, two versions of the questionnaire were used. The first version commenced with alcohol-related questions, and the second commenced with tobacco-related questions. Questions regarding use of other substances always followed both the alcohol and tobacco sections.

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