Research Volunteers - The Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Skip Navigation


NIDA needs volunteers!

Participate in research at NIDA

How does participating in clinical research help?

Clinical research furthers our knowledge of drug abuse and how it affects the body and brain. Our hope is that, through research, we can learn how to better treat people suffering from addiction, and eventually prevent addiction from occurring. NIDA is committed to the study of drug abuse and addiction prevention and treatment. To do so, we need volunteers to participate in this research to increase our knowledge and understanding. NIDA is continually conducting clinical research and is always looking for and in need of research volunteers.

Who can volunteer?

NIDA conducts a variety of research studies regarding drug use and abuse, including studies about cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, and nicotine. The volunteers we need are people who use these drugs (rarely or frequently), as well as people who have never used these drugs. Studying both types of volunteers allows us to better measure the effects drugs have on our brains and bodies.

How does someone volunteer?

Getting started is easy. Anyone interested in volunteering can call the NIDA IRP Research Call Center at 1-800-535-8254 for a short confidential interview. If s/he qualifies, s/he will be asked to come for an in-person interview.

What can volunteers expect?

All research volunteers are thoroughly screened to ensure safety. If after the initial telephone screening a caller appears to qualify for a study, s/he will be asked to come to our center for an in-person interview to allow us to obtain more information. During the in-person interview, the volunteer receives a series of assessments and medical tests, including a physical exam and a review of medical history. All of the information collected is reviewed by a physician who determines if the volunteer is eligible to participate in one of our studies. All of the results of our medical testing, including any medical issues or conditions found, are shared with the volunteer. There is no charge for any of these tests.

Are volunteers compensated?

NIDA compensates volunteers for their time and travel. The amount of compensation varies by study.

What about confidentiality?

All information we receive is kept confidential to the extent possible by law. We have a Federal Confidentiality Certificate, which means we can refuse to release volunteers’ records even if a judge asks for them. Bottom line, we will not release any information that identifies our volunteers to anyone else, unless we have permission to do so from the volunteer. The exception is that we are required to report information about child abuse and certain infectious diseases.

Are there any risks involved in volunteering?

The screening staff is required to explain any risks, requirements, restrictions, or possible side effects before a volunteer agrees to take part in any of our studies. Volunteers are encouraged to ask questions and voice any concerns before making the decision to join a research study.

How are the research studies approved?

Physicians, scientists, and people from the community carefully screen all studies for safety, ethics, and scientific merit. All studies are reviewed by an Institutional Review Board to ensure that the research is conducted in the most ethical and safest manner possible. If an investigational drug (a drug not yet approved for sale) is involved, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also review the study.

What has NIDA’s research revealed?

All advances in medical science come through research. At NIDA, we have been able to increase our knowledge about how the body and brain are affected by drugs. Some specific examples are outlined below. All of these advances in medical treatments are the direct results of clinical research involving research volunteers.

  • Our studies have revealed more about where and how cocaine acts in the brain, including how the drug produces its pleasurable effects and why it is so addictive. Scientists have been able to actually see the dynamic changes that occur in the brain as an individual takes cocaine. They have observed the different brain changes that occur as a person experiences the “rush,” the “high,” and, finally, the craving of cocaine. They have also identified parts of the brain that become active when a cocaine addict sees or hears environmental stimuli that trigger the craving for cocaine. Because these types of studies pinpoint specific brain regions, they are critical to identifying targets for developing medications and behavioral interventions to treat cocaine addiction.
  • The "club drug" MDMA, often called ecstasy or "X," continues to be used by millions of Americans across the country, despite evidence of its potential harmful effects. NIDA-supported research is developing a clearer picture of the potential dangers of MDMA, including addiction, confusion, depression, and attention and memory problems.
  • Nicotine, a component of tobacco, is the primary reason tobacco is addictive, although cigarette smoke also contains many other dangerous chemicals. Research has shown how nicotine acts on the brain to produce a number of effects, including findings showing that nicotine activates reward pathways—the brain circuitry that regulates feelings of pleasure. MRI studies allow researchers to watch changes in the brain that result from smoking tobacco. An improved overall understanding of nicotine as an addictive drug has been instrumental in developing medications and behavioral treatments for tobacco addiction. Researchers have also identified new roles for genes that predispose people to tobacco addiction and predict their response to smoking cessation treatments. For more information on NIDA IRP participation, please call 1-800-535-8254.

Related Information...

Health and Human Services Logo National Institutes of Health Logo National Institute on Drug Abuse Logo

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical and behavioral research agency of the United States Government. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

PDF documents require the free Adobe Reader. Microsoft Word documents require the free Microsoft Word viewer. Microsoft PowerPoint documents require the free Microsoft PowerPoint viewer. Flash content requires the free Adobe Flash Player.