Elite athletes' estimates of the prevalence of illicit drug use: Evidence for the false consensus effect

Authors


  • Matthew Dunn BA (Psych), PostGradDipPsych, GCertPopH, PhD, Lecturer, Johanna O. Thomas BA (Psych), MPH, Research Officer, Wendy Swift BA (Hons), MPH, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Lucinda Burns BA (Hons), MPH, PhD, Grad Cert Health Policy, Senior Lecturer.

Dr Matthew Dunn, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 (0)2 9385 0167; Fax: +61 (0)2 9385 0222; E-mail: m.dunn@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Introduction and Aims.The false consensus effect (FCE) is the tendency for people to assume that others share their attitudes and behaviours to a greater extent than they actually do. The FCE has been demonstrated for a range of health behaviours, including substance use. The study aimed to explore the relationship between elite athlete's engagement in recreational drug use and their consensus estimates (the FCE) and to determine whether those who engage in the behaviour overestimate the use of others around them.

Design and Method.The FCE was investigated among 974 elite Australian athletes who were classified according to their drug use history.

Results.Participants tended to report that there was a higher prevalence of drug use among athletes in general compared with athletes in their sport, and these estimates appeared to be influenced by participants' drug use history. While overestimation of drug use by participants was not common, this overestimation also appeared to be influenced by athletes' drug use history.

Discussion and Conclusions.The results suggest that athletes who have a history of illicit drug use overestimate the prevalence of drug use among athletes. These findings may be helpful in the formulation of normative education initiatives.[Dunn M, Thomas JO, Swift W, Burns L. Elite athletes' estimates of the prevalence of illicit drug use: Evidence for the false consensus effect. Drug Alcohol Rev 2012;31:27–32]

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