A Brief Introduction to Human Behavioral Pharmacology: Methods, Design Considerations and Ethics

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2 Scopus citations


Human behavioral pharmacology methods have been used to rigorously evaluate the effects of a range of centrally acting drugs in humans under controlled conditions for decades. Methods like drug self-administration and drug discrimination have been adapted from nonhuman laboratory animal models. Because humans have the capacity to communicate verbally, self-report methods are also commonly used to understand drug effects. This perspective article provides an overview of these traditional human behavioral pharmacology methods and introduces some novel methodologies that have more recently been adapted for use in the field. Design (e.g., using placebo controls, testing multiple doses) and ethical (e.g., avoiding enrollment of individuals seeking treatment, determining capacity to consent) considerations that must be addressed when conducting these types of studies are also described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-381
Number of pages21
JournalPerspectives on Behavior Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author gratefully acknowledges Justin C. Strickland, PhD, for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This work was supported by NIDA/NIH grants R01DA052203 and R01DA048617. The opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the NIH, the Department of Health and Human Services or the United States Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Association for Behavior Analysis International.


  • Behavior
  • Discriminative stimulus effects
  • Human
  • Pharmacology
  • Reinforcing effects
  • Subjective effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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