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Measuring Drug and Alcohol Use Among College Student-Athletes (WP-14-10)

James Druckman, Mauro Gilli, Samara Klar, and Joshua Robison

Few issues in athletics today receive more attention than drug and alcohol usage, especially when it comes to college athletics. The authors seek to correctly address self-report biases related to banned drug usage and heavy drinking. The researchers employ an experimental measurement technique. The results suggest that an overwhelmingly greater percentage of student-athletes from a major conference knowingly engage in these two behaviors than self-reports indicate. Specifically, they find 37 percent of respondents report having knowingly taken banned performance enhancing drugs (compared with 4.9 percent who directly admit to doing so when asked), and 46 percent consumed more than five drinks in a week (compared with about 3 percent who openly admit to doing so). The authors provide clear evidence for the tremendous extent of self-under-reporting when it comes to drug and alcohol usage among college athletes.

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science, Associate Director and IPR Faculty Fellow, Northwestern University

Mauro Gilli, PhD Candidate in Political Science, Northwestern University

Samara Klar, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Arizona

Joshua Robison, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University, Denmark

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