Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) has been promoted as a superior method in recruiting hard-to-reach and hidden populations. Although its application has expanded enormously, there remains a need for empirical data evaluating the performance of RDS in different settings. This study describes the application of RDS to recruit a community sample (N=396) of young adults (18-23 years old) into a natural history study of non-medical pharmaceutical opioid use. Since recruitment targeted non-dependent pharmaceutical opioid users, and applied other eligibility restrictions, several modifications had to be made to make RDS work with this narrowly defined target population. RDS recruitment was less efficient than expected, and produced greater numbers of African American recruits than anticipated. Although the sampling quota was met, sample analysis revealed a lack of equilibrium in terms of ethnic composition and very strong in-group recruitment tendencies among White and African American respondents. This study contributes potentially helpful insights into the strengths and limitations of using RDS which may benefit future studies.
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"The second arm was allowed to proceed in an entirely respondent-driven manner with study staff not being directly involved in either the primary seed selection or the secondary recruitment. This process is not unlike that recently used by Daniulaityte et al.  in which individuals who had been referred to the study but who were not in possession of a recruitment coupon were designated as seeds. Our process differed in that these alternate self-presenters were treated as a separate seed group for purposes of comparing recruitment dynamics. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Respondent driven sampling (RDS) was designed for sampling "hidden" populations and intended as a means of generating unbiased population estimates. Its widespread use has been accompanied by increasing scrutiny as researchers attempt to understand the extent to which the population estimates produced by RDS are, in fact, generalizable to the actual population of interest. In this study we compare two different methods of seed selection to determine whether this may influence recruitment and RDS measures.
Two seed groups were established. One group was selected as per a standard RDS approach of study staff purposefully selecting a small number of individuals to initiate recruitment chains. The second group consisted of individuals self-presenting to study staff during the time of data collection. Recruitment was allowed to unfold from each group and RDS estimates were compared between the groups. A comparison of variables associated with HIV was also completed.
Three analytic groups were used for the majority of the analyses--RDS recruits originating from study staff-selected seeds (n = 196); self-presenting seeds (n = 118); and recruits of self-presenting seeds (n = 264). Multinomial logistic regression demonstrated significant differences between the three groups across six of ten sociodemographic and risk behaviours examined. Examination of homophily values also revealed differences in recruitment from the two seed groups (e.g. in one arm of the study sex workers and solvent users tended not to recruit others like themselves, while the opposite was true in the second arm of the study). RDS estimates of population proportions were also different between the two recruitment arms; in some cases corresponding confidence intervals between the two recruitment arms did not overlap. Further differences were revealed when comparisons of HIV prevalence were carried out.
RDS is a cost-effective tool for data collection, however, seed selection has the potential to influence which subgroups within a population are accessed. Our findings indicate that using multiple methods for seed selection may improve access to hidden populations. Our results further highlight the need for a greater understanding of RDS to ensure appropriate, accurate and representative estimates of a population can be obtained from an RDS sample.
Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · BMC Medical Research Methodology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is growing evidence about illicit use of buprenorphine in the U.S. The study aims to: (1) identify prevalence and predictors of illicit buprenorphine use in a community sample of 396 young adult (18-23 years old) non-medical users of pharmaceutical opioids and (2) describe knowledge, attitudes and behaviors linked to illicit buprenorphine use as reported by a qualitative sub-sample (n=51).
Participants were recruited using respondent-driven sampling. Qualitative interview participants were selected from the larger sample. The sample (n=396) was 54% male and 50% white; 7.8% reported lifetime illicit use of buprenorphine.
Logistic regression analysis results indicate that white ethnicity, intranasal inhalation of pharmaceutical opioids, symptoms of opioid dependence, and a greater number of pharmaceutical opioids used in lifetime were statistically significant predictors of illicit buprenorphine use. Qualitative interviews revealed that buprenorphine was more commonly used by more experienced users who were introduced to it by their "junkie friends." Those who used buprenorphine to self-medicate withdrawal referred to it as a "miracle pill." When used to get high, reported experiences ranged from "the best high ever" to "puking for days." Participants reported using buprenorphine/naloxone orally or by intranasal inhalation. Injection of buprenorphine without naloxone was also reported.
Our findings suggest that illicit buprenorphine use is gaining ground primarily among whites and those who are more advanced in their drug use careers. Continued monitoring is needed to better understand evolving patterns and trends of illicit buprenorphine use.
Full-text · Article · Oct 2011 · Drug and alcohol dependence
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There has been a rise in the illicit use of pharmaceutical opioids ("pain pills") in the United States. Conducted with young adult non-medical users of pharmaceutical opioids, this study uses qualitative methods and cultural consensus analysis to describe risk perceptions associated with pharmaceutical opioids and to determine patterns of cultural sharing and intra-cultural variation of these views.
The qualitative sub-sample (n=47) was selected from a larger sample of 396 young adults (18-23 years old), who were participating in a natural history study of illicit pharmaceutical opioid use. Qualitative life history interviews, drug ranking task, and cultural consensus analysis were used to elicit participant views about risks and harms associated with pain pills and other drugs, as well as alcohol and tobacco.
Cultural consensus analysis revealed that the participants shared a single cultural model of drug risks, but the level of agreement decreased with the increasing range of drugs ever used. Further, those with more extensive drug use histories differed from less "experienced" users in their views about OxyContin and some other drugs. Overall, pain pills were viewed as addicting and potentially deadly substances, but these properties were linked to the patterns and methods of use, as well as characteristics of an individual user. Further, risks associated with pharmaceutical opioids were further curtailed because they "came from the doctor," and thus had a legitimate aspect to their use.
This study highlights potential problems with universal approaches to substance use prevention and intervention among young people since such approaches ignore the fact that substance use education messages may be experienced differently depending on an individual's drug use history and his/her perceptions of drug risks. Findings reported here may be useful in the development of prevention and intervention programs aimed at reducing the harm associated with illicit use of pain pills.
No preview · Article · Mar 2012 · The International journal on drug policy