Older Drug Users: A Life Course Study of Turning Points in Drug Use [in a large Southeastern Metropolitan Area], 2009-2010 (ICPSR 34296)

Published: Jul 31, 2012

Principal Investigator(s):
Miriam Boeri, Kennesaw State University; Thor Whalen, Kennesaw State University


Version V1

ODUS, 2009-2010

The Older Drug Users study was a mixed method, retrospective longitudinal study that interviewed 92 respondents in a large southeastern metropolitan area from January 2009 to August 2010. The goal of the study was to provide in-depth life history on the drug use trajectories of older drug users, specific turning points in drug use patterns, and drug-related health risks over a person's life course.

Quantitiave and qualititative data was collected from each respondent. Two questionnaires were used to collect the quantitative data. The first questionnaire asked about the person's basic demographic information (gender, race, age, and education), health history (has the person been diagnosed with HIV, AIDS, or Hepatitis C), and drug use (route and frequency) and treatment in the past 30 days across ten different substances (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens/LSD/Ecstasy/club drugs, prescription pills, cocaine, crack, heroin, amphetamines, and methamphetamine).

A second questionnaire was used to serve as a retrospective life history of the person. The questionnaire asked about the same drug use and treatment of the same ten drugs but this time looking at the entire year. Questions were also asked concerning the person's living arrangement, employment, family roles, drug roles, and sexual activity over the course of the year. The questions were repeated for every year of the person's life from birth up to the time the person was interviewed.

Boeri, Miriam, and Whalen, Thor. Older Drug Users: A Life Course Study of Turning Points in Drug Use [in a large Southeastern Metropolitan Area], 2009-2010. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2012-07-31. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34296.v1

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United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institude on Drug Abuse (R21 DA025298)

American Reinvestment and Recovery Act

Users are reminded that these data are to be used solely for statistical analysis and reporting of aggregated information, and not for the investigation of specific individuals or organizations.

2009 -- 2010

2009-01 -- 2010-10

In order to help ensure the confidentiality of the respondents information on several variables in the 30 day file (Part 1) were recoded, masked, or removed completely. For gender, the coding for one individual that identified himself as a transgender was recoded to male. For education status, the coding for one individual that had obtained an advanced college degree was grouped with those who had received a college degree. For race, the coding for individuals identified as being Hispanic/Latino, Asian, or Other were all grouped into the "Other" category. Lastly, the variables that asked for a specific year that an event took place (year diagnosed with HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, or when the person moved away from home for the first time) were removed from the data file and replaced with a variable providing the person's age of when the event took place using his or her year of birth. The person's year of birth was then removed from the file.

For the yearly file (Part 2) the variable that identified the state the person was living in for each year has been removed.

In both parts the questionnaire allowed the respondent to include comments (such as to explain how frequently they used a particular substance) or to describe specifically the type of treatment they received when they marked "Other". All text where something was written in has been masked. Cases where nothing was entered were left blank.

An "active" user was defined as an individual who had used heroin, cocaine/crack, or methamphetamine during the previous year. A "former" user was defined as someone who had used at least one of these three drugs at some point in the prior ten years for at least six consecutive months.

The variable RESPID can be used to link the 30-day file (Part 1) and the yearly file (Part 2) together.

Researchers interested in the state identifier removed from the Part 2 yearly data file or the qualitative data should contact Dr. Miriam Boeri.

The study had three specific aims:

1. To identify turning points in the onset, continuation, and cessation of drug use throughout the life course of a sample of older users; specifically how social roles, race, gender, age, social contexts, policies, and historical events influence changes in drug use patterns and drug related HIV risk behaviors.

2. To thoroughly explore these turning points and transitions over the life course, specifically changes in drug availability, risk behaviors, routes of administration, social roles, networks, social support, policies, settings, and geographic locations.

3. To build Dynamic Baynesian Networks (DBN) that best model the static and dynamic aspects found in the quantitative and qualitative data thus allowing identification of not only statistical relationships between the variables but also the influence and progression of them through time.

The study sample was conducted in three stages. The primary means of recruitment used community consultants, knowledgeable members of the community in regards to the locations and practices of local drug-users, to conduct ethnographic fieldwork. They helped to recruit respondents from places known for drug users and dealing. Secondary recruitment involved "snowball" sampling in which a respondent or someone who was met in the field but was not eligible to participate referred the researcher to another individual. Lastly, fliers were distributed throughout the community advertising to current and former drug users the opportunity to participate in a paid research study.



Individuals at least 45 years old and either an active or former user of heroin, cocaine/crack, or methamphetamine in a large southeastern metropolitan area.


survey data

computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI)

mixed mode

Of the 100 respondents enrolled in the study eight respondents were eliminated from the final files. Reasons for the elimination of a case include too many inconsistencies found in the data or the researchers determined the respondent's ability to recall their past history was not reliable.



2012-07-31 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Performed consistency checks.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


This study is maintained and distributed by the National Addiction & HIV Data Archive Program (NAHDAP). NAHDAP is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).