Reflections on the past 40 years of behavioral pharmacology research on problems of drug abuse

Robert L. Balster, Sharon L. Walsh, George E. Bigelow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Behavioral pharmacology research has made important contributions to the conceptualization of addictions and to the treatment and prevention of substance abuse. It has its intellectual roots in the experimental analysis of behavior and close ties with experimental and clinical pharmacology. Because substance abusers self-administer drugs repeatedly, this presents the opportunity for learning to occur. The application of learning theory to the laboratory study of drug effects in both animals and humans has been a major contribution of behavioral pharmacology research. Principles derived from over 40 years of behavioral pharmacology research are now widely accepted in the addiction field and have contributed to the development of both pharmacological and behavioral treatments. Drug abuse prevention through the assessment of the abuse liability of new medications has also been an important applied area of research in the field. Personal reflections of three behavioral pharmacologists provide examples of important influences in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-152
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Drug Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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