The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

Call for Papers

Call for papers: Beyond self-reports – ways to obtain more comprehensive insights into substance use events

 dar logo edited

  Beyond self-reports – ways to obtain more comprehensive insights into
  substance use events


Drug and Alcohol Review is planning a special issue on “Beyond self-reports – ways to obtain more comprehensive insights into substance use events”. Emmanuel Kuntsche, Cassandra Wright and Johannes Thrul will act as Guest Editors.

For more than a century, most information on personal substance use has been collected by asking participants to report their behaviour retrospectively in questionnaires [1]. While considered cost-efficient and convenient, this approach largely underestimates substance use in a given population. For example, survey estimates reproduce only 30–70% of the total per capita alcohol consumption compared with sales data [2]. This is primarily attributable to memory deficits, as people tend to remember only part of the amounts consumed and have difficulties calculating standard drink units [3-5]. More precise estimations require methods that record behaviours in or close to real time or match objective data with discrete alcohol or other substance use events. This is also important because environmental features of substance use events, including the user’s location, how many others are present, how noisy the place is, how to get from there to another place or home, become less salient over time and are thus difficult or impossible to recall [6,7]. Macro-level factors such as alcohol outlet density and public transport options are also difficult to capture with self-reported data. Nevertheless, these environmental features are crucial in shaping substance use behaviours and related problems.

Fortunately, the development of sensor technology as well as improvements in administrative data quality and accessibility offer exciting possibilities to overcome the limitations of retrospective recall and potentially provide data with unpreceded precision, both in terms of measuring alcohol consumption (via breath and perspiration samples and sales statistics) and contextual factors (using GPS, smartphone and public surveillance cameras, emergency room data, transportation statistics, etc.). However, these novel possibilities come with challenges relating to analysing and interpreting enormous amounts of data and linking these data to the real-life experiences and (substance use) behaviour of individuals in meaningful ways. They also generate unique privacy and ethical concerns.

In a field in which implementation of sensor technology and large-scale use of administrative data are still in its infancy, this Special Issue aims to bring together contributions that use these kinds of objective data, possibly combined with self-reports, to obtain a more comprehensive picture of substance use events.

If you are interested in submitting a paper for this issue, or have any queries, please contact the Editorial Office – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Papers must follow the author guidelines and word limits. Please note that all papers will need to be entered on Manuscript Central and will be subject to peer review by at least two independent reviewers. When submitting, authors should choose ‘Special issue’ as the manuscript type, and note in the cover letter which special issue/section the paper is intended for.

Authors are asked to submit their papers by the end of July 2020.


  1. Kuntsche E, Labhart F. The future is now – Using personal cell phones to gather data on substance use and related factors. Addiction 2014;109:1052-3.
  2. Ramstedt M. How much alcohol do you buy? A comparison of self-reported alcohol purchases with actual sales. Addiction 2010;105:649-54.
  3. Ekholm O. Influence of the recall period on self-reported alcohol intake. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004;58:60-3.
  4. Lee PN, Thornton AJ, Forey BA, Hamling JS. Environmental tobacco smoke exposure and risk of stroke in never smokers: An updated review with meta-analysis. J Stroke Cerebrovas Dis 2017;26:204-16.
  5. Ravi D, Ghasemiesfe M, Korenstein D, Cascino T, Keyhani S. Associations between marijuana use and cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes: A systematic review. Ann Intern Med 2018;168:187-94.
  6. Hughes K, Quigg, Z, Eckley L, Bellis M, Jones L, Calafat A, et al. Environmental factors in drinking venues and alcohol-related harm: the evidence base for European intervention. Addiction 2011;106:37‑46.
  7. Kuntsche E, Dietze P, Jenkinson R. Understanding alcohol and other drug use during the event. Drug Alcohol Rev 2014;33:335-7.