King’s College London has sent an email to hundreds of undergraduates inviting them to “take part in a clinical study involving nasal administration of cocaine”.
Students who use drugs recreationally will not be allowed to participate, nor those studying medicine or dentistry. Those who are accepted will be given “reasonable financial compensation” for the time and expenses incurred. The email explains the study will mean that: “After cocaine administration, repeated biological samples (blood, urine, hair, sweat, oral fluid) will be taken to compare and investigate how cocaine and its metabolites are spread through the human body.”
Participants will not be able to cut or dye their hair for 120 days during the study follow-up period as scientists investigate a wide range of physical effects on the body.
The project, which has been approved by London Westminster Research Ethics Committee, will be supervised by the clinical toxicology department at St Thomas’ Hospital.
A spokesman for King’s said: “This is an important scientific study to investigate how cocaine and its metabolites are spread through the human body.
“All the relevant ethical approvals were received for this study. The study will be conducted under the highest level of medical supervision in a dedicated clinical research suite. Further information about the NHS ethical approval process, which was followed, is available on our website.”
The email has already attracted online comments and jokes from students. The university has a reputation for research into the use and effects of illegal drugs, including studies into the genetic causes of addiction and papers on whether certain substances should be legalised.
An estimated 700,000 people in Britain took cocaine last year, making it the second most popular drug after cannabis.