A comparison of the empirical utility of three composite measures of adolescent overall drug involvement

Richard Needle, Susan Su, Yoav Lavee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Researchers have relied on a number of measurement techniques to construct a summated index of drug involvement to reflect both the qualitative and quantitative dimensions of adolescent drug-using behavior. The purpose of this study was to examine the adequacy of three strategies for constructing a composite measure - stage-of-drug-use, unweighted sum of frequencies of use of different substances, and a weighted composite index of substance use. Data for this study were derived from two independent samples of adolescents. The three drug-use measures were assessed both as predictors of consequences of drug use and as outcome measures explained by familial, interpersonal and interpersonal factors. The weighted composite index of substance use, though conceptually and methodologically superior to the simple (unweighted) sum of frequency, did not perform any better as a predictor or as an outcome variable than the unweighted measure. The weighted composite index of drug involvement is somewhat complicated to calculate and requires substantial resources. The decision whether to use a weighted composite index or a simple sum of frequencies measure of overall drug involvement should be based on both scientific and practical considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-441
Number of pages13
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant number DA/AA02360-01 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of Dr. William Doherty for his help through the development of this paper. The authors are also indebted to Dr. Douglas Hawkins for his statistical consultation.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology


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