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Innovative Recruitment Using Online Networks: Lessons Learned From an Online Study of Alcohol and Other Drug Use Utilizing a Web-Based, Respondent-Driven Sampling (webRDS) Strategy

José A. Bauermeister, Marc A. Zimmerman, Michelle M. Johns, Pietreck Glowacki, Sarah Stoddard, Erik Volz

Objective: We used a web version of Respondent-Driven Sampling (webRDS) to recruit a sample of young adults (ages 18–24) and examined whether this strategy would result in alcohol and other drug (AOD) prevalence estimates comparable to national estimates (National Survey on Drug Use and Health [NSDUH]). Method: We recruited 22 initial participants (seeds) via Facebook to complete a web survey examining AOD risk correlates. Sequential, incentivized recruitment continued until our desired sample size was achieved. After correcting for webRDS clustering effects, we contrasted our AOD prevalence estimates (past 30 days) to NSDUH estimates by comparing the 95% confidence intervals of prevalence estimates. Results: We found comparable AOD prevalence estimates between our sample and NSDUH for the past 30 days for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA), and hallucinogens. Cigarette use was lower than NSDUH estimates. Conclusions: WebRDS may be a suitable strategy to recruit young adults online. We discuss the unique strengths and challenges that may be encountered by public health researchers using webRDS methods. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 834–838, 2012)