The aim of the Epidemiological Survey of Substance Abuse is to monitor substance use and its consequences through epidemiological surveys of the general population. Through monitoring, information about the situation in Germany is obtained. This information is then used to plan and improve prevention and healthcare, to assess the effects of legal and other regulatory interventions on consumption behavior, and negative consequences of consumption.
1. Descriptive information on consumption behavior
Consumption behavior refers to information on the type of substances used, the amount and pattern of use, the general conditions of use, and the health, social, and financial consequences of use. This information serves as the basis for the reporting tasks of the federal government which includes addiction and drug reports, inquiries from the parliament, information for the public, comparisons of rates in Germany with other countries, and for reporting to European and international organizations (e.g. EC, EMCDDA, WHO, UNO, UNODC).
2. Estimation of the effects of drug use and the overall burden on the individual and on the population
The aim here is to calculate the consequences associated with consumption behavior at the individual, population, and regional levels. Specifically, the health, social, and economic consequences. These results are also used for reporting purposes, such as comparing the consequences of consumption behavior with the consequences of other mental and psychosomatic disorders, making comparisons with other countries, and for estimating the individual and societal costs associated with problematic consumption patterns.
3. Trend analysis
Long-term comparisons of the various surveys and associated analyses based on the data for (1) and (2) will be conducted. This allows for the observation of long-term developments in socio-demographic aspects and consumption patterns that are relevant for reporting and comparison purposes. Data covering a period of up to 30 years are available for trend analysis (the first survey was conducted in 1980).
4. Indicator function for critical developments as a basis for health policy action
Epidemiological studies can usually identify critical developments much earlier than other instruments (e.g., the analysis of changes in patients in addiction therapy facilities). In the case of a forward-looking health policy, these studies form the basis for policies by the German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) and other authorities. For example, epidemiological studies around 1990 showed for the first time that the proportion of people with harmful use (ICD-10)/abuse (DSM-IV) is much higher than originally assumed and that only a small portion of dependent people and an even smaller portion of people with a problematic consumption pattern undergo treatment. This resulted in various projects, such as screening for problematic patterns of use in general health care facilities as well as a greater emphasis on prevention measures of early detection and intervention for problematic patterns of use.
5. Scientific analysis to ensure the quality and international comparability of the findings
Even if scientific analyses are not at the forefront of the tasks concerning the type of data collection, sampling, and type of statistical evaluation, they remain essential for two reasons. First, there must be ongoing empirical testing to determine whether the quality (reliability and validity) of the statements can be ensured or improved. Additionally, the evaluation of relevant literature and European and international cooperation is necessary to be able to adapt the data collection to meet international standards and ongoing standards.