Ethical and practical issues involved in behavioral pharmacology research that administers drugs of abuse to human volunteers

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Researchers carrying out non-therapeutic research that involves the administration of drugs of abuse to human volunteers can be faced with many ethical and practical questions. The history of this type of research is relatively brief, with little in the way of published information relevant to carrying out behavioral pharmacological research with human participants. The aim of this article is to raise issues that occur in most studies of this type and to provide solutions that we have found acceptable and which have been approved by a variety of institutions and regulatory agencies. Clearly, there are other approaches that would work equally as well, and we are not attempting to provide 'the' answer to many of the issues raised. We believe that raising these issues and providing our perspectives is important for stimulating others to discuss them and for all of us to strive, where possible, to reach a consensus concerning ethical practices and to become aware of gaps and pitfalls. The topics discussed range from the nuts and bolts of acquiring and keeping track of drugs, to selecting research participants and designing ethical studies that protect our volunteers while still collecting scientifically useful data.

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