The Epidemiological Survey of Substance Abuse ("Representative Survey on the use and abuse of psychoactive substances") has been conducted since 1980 as a repeated cross-sectional survey amongst the population of Germany. The data collected prior to 1990 covered the area of the Federal Republic of Germany as it was at the time; since 1990, the new German Laender have also been included in the survey. In order to observe in particular the use of illegal drugs in the new German Laender, a survey was conducted solely in former East Germany in 1992.
With the exception of the survey in 1980, which was only conducted in seven of the eleven Laender of the old FRG, all analysis from the Epidemiological Survey of Substance Abuse is representative for Germany. Aside from 1980, a written questionnaire was completed in all surveys by the participants on their own. In the 1980 survey, interviewers were used in Bavaria, in the 2006 survey telephone interviews were also conducted in addition to the written questionnaire. Since the 2009 survey, a mix of methods consisting of written, telephone and internet interviews has been employed.
The study changed from a youth and young adult sample in the surveys between 1980 (12-24 years old) and 1990 (12-39 years old) to a purely adult sample from 1995, with ages between 18 and 59. Since 2006, the age group of 60 to 64 year olds has also been surveyed.