Criterion Validity of Self-Reports of Alcohol, Cannabis, and Methamphetamine Use Among Young Men in Cape Town, South Africa

  • Kodi B. Arfer
  • Mark Tomlinson
  • Andile Mayekiso
  • Jason Bantjes
  • Alastair van Heerden
  • Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus
Brief Report


Valid measurement of substance use is necessary to evaluate preventive and treatment interventions. Self-report is fast and inexpensive, but its accuracy can be hampered by social desirability bias and imperfect recall. We examined the agreement between self-report of recent use and rapid diagnostic tests for three substances (alcohol, cannabis, and methamphetamine) among 904 young men living in Cape Town, South Africa. Rapid diagnostic tests detected the respective substances in 32, 52, and 22% of men. Among those who tested positive, 61% (95% CI [56%, 66%]), 70% ([67%, 74%]), and 48% ([42%, 54%]) admitted use. Men were moderately more willing to admit use of cannabis than alcohol (log OR 0.42) or admit use of alcohol than methamphetamine (log OR 0.53). Our findings show that self-report has reasonable criterion validity in this population, but criterion validity can vary substantially depending on the substance.


Criterion validity Self-report Alcohol Cannabis Methamphetamine South Africa 



This project was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R34DA030311); the National Institute of Mental Health (T32MH109205); the UCLA Center for HIV Identification, Prevention and Treatment Services (P30MH58107); the UCLA Center for AIDS Research (P30AI028697); the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UL1TR000124); and the National Research Foundation, South Africa.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kodi B. Arfer
    • 1
  • Mark Tomlinson
    • 2
  • Andile Mayekiso
    • 2
  • Jason Bantjes
    • 2
  • Alastair van Heerden
    • 3
  • Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus
    • 1
  1. 1.UCLA Center for HIV Identification, Prevention, and Treatment ServicesUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.Human and Social Development Research ProgrammeHuman Sciences Research CouncilPretoriaSouth Africa

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