The objective of the Epidemiological Survey of Substance Abuse is the monitoring of substance use and its consequences with the help of the epidemiological survey in the general public. The monitoring enables, amongst other things, information to be obtained as to the situation in Germany in order to plan and improve prevention measures and healthcare or to assess the effects of statutory and other regulatory interventions on the use behaviour and the negative effects.
1. Descriptive information on use behaviour
Use behaviour is understood to mean information on the type of substances used, the amount and the pattern of use, on the conditions surrounding the use as well as the health, social and financial consequences. This descriptive information serves as a basis for the reporting responsibilities of the German federal government, for example in respect of government addiction and drug reports, requests from parliament, public information, for comparing the situation in Germany with that in other countries and for reporting to European and international organisations (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
In this context, the objective is to calculate the consequences associated with substance use for the individual and for the population as a whole or sections of the population respectively. Specifically, this refers to health, social and economic consequences. The findings also assist with reporting responsibilities, for example in respect of the comparison of the burden with other mental or psychosomatic disorders or with other countries and to estimate the costs on a particular social strata which are associated with problem patterns of use.
3. Trend analysis
Long term comparisons of the various surveys are conducted as well as the associated analysis on the basis of the data on (1) and (2). This enables long term developments in socio-demographic aspects or patterns of use to be observed as are relevant for reporting and comparison purposes. For the trend analysis, data is available from a period of up to 30 years (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, much earlier than other instruments (such as the analysis of the change in patients in addiction treatment facilities), critical developments which are the basis for measures of the German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) or another authority in a forward thinking health policy. For example, through the epidemiological studies, it was possible to show for the first time around 1990 that the proportion of people exhibiting harmful use (ICD-10)/abuse (DSM-IV) was much larger than previously assumed and that only a small proportion of addicted persons and an even smaller proportion of persons with problem patterns of use went into treatment. This resulted in numerous projects being introduced, such as screening for problem patterns of use at general medical care facilities and a generally stronger focus on measures to prevent as well as early identification and early intervention in the case of problem patterns of use.
5. Scientific analysis to ensure the quality and international comparability of the findings
Although scientific analyses in respect of the type of data collection, sampling methods and the type of statistical analysis are not the primary goals, they are indispensible for two reasons: firstly, there must be continuous checks as to whether the quality (reliability and validity) of the statements can be ensured and improved. Furthermore, the analysis of the relevant literature as well as European and international cooperations are necessary in order to adjust the data collection to the respective international standards developments over time.