A Scoping Review of Data Sources for the Conduct of Policy-Relevant Substance Use Research Academic Article uri icon


  • Objective Existing administrative and survey data are critical for understanding the effects of exigent policies on population health outcomes related to opioid, cannabis, and other substance use disorders (SUDs). The objective of this study was to determine the state of the data available for evaluating SUD-related health outcomes. Methods We performed a scoping review of national and state government data sources to measure and evaluate the effects of state policy changes on substance use and SUD-related health outcomes and health care use. We used Massachusetts as a case study for availability of relevant state-level data as well as national datasets with state-level indicators available to measure outcomes. We compared key features of each dataset to assess their usefulness for research and policy evaluation. We conducted our review during November 2018–March 2019, and we updated data availability as of March 2019 for all data sources. Results We identified 11 survey datasets, 12 national administrative datasets, and 10 state administrative datasets as being suitable for policy-relevant research and practice purposes. These datasets varied substantially in their usefulness for evaluation and research. Despite substantial data limitations, including prohibitive regulatory and monetary costs to obtain the data and limited availability, these data can be mined to examine a diversity of policy-relevant questions. Conclusions Findings provide a comprehensive resource for using survey and administrative data to evaluate the health effects of SUD-related policies and interventions. The construction of state-level public health data warehouses or record linkage projects connecting individual-level information in state data sources is valuable for analyzing the effects of policy changes. Understanding strengths and limitations of available data sources is important for ongoing research and evaluation.


  • Geissler, Kimberley H.
  • Evans, Elizabeth
  • Johnson, Julie K.
  • Whitehill, Jennifer M.

publication date

  • 2022