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Review Assessment of Epidemiologic Data and Surveillance in South Korean Substance Use Research: Insights and Future Directions
Meekang Sung3orcid , Vaughan W. Rees3, Hannah Lee2, Mohammad S Jalali1corresp_iconorcid

DOI: [Accepted]
Published online: June 24, 2024
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1MGH Institute for Technology Assessment, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, United States
2MGH Institute for Technology Assessment, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, United States
3Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, United States
Corresponding author:  Mohammad S Jalali,
Received: 28 March 2024   • Revised: 26 May 2024   • Accepted: 29 May 2024

Effective data collection and surveillance of epidemiological trends are essential in confronting the growing challenges associated with substance use (SU), especially in light of emerging trends and underreporting of cases. However, research and data are scarce regarding SU and substance use disorder (SUD) in Korea.
We conducted a scoping review to identify data sources and surveillance methods used in SU research in Korea up to December 2023. This review was complemented by semi-structured consultations with experts in this area in Korea, whose feedback led to revisions of previously identified data sources and assessments.
Our review identified 32 publications conducting secondary analyses on existing data to examine the epidemiology of SU and SUD in Korea. Of these, 14 studies utilized clinical databases to explore the prescription patterns of addictive substances, particularly opioids. Eleven data sources showed promise for advancing SU research; however, they face substantial limitations, including a lack of available data, missing data, the absence of key variables, the exclusion of marginalized populations not captured within the clinical system, and complexities in matching individual-level data across time points and datasets.
Current surveillance methods for SU in Korea face considerable challenges in accessibility, usability, and standardization. Moreover, existing data repositories may fail to capture information on populations not served by clinical or judicial systems. To systematically improve surveillance approaches, it is necessary to develop a robust and nationally representative survey, refine the use of existing clinical data, and ensure the availability of data on treatment facilities.

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JPMPH : Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health