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Ethical Considerations For Drug Abuse Epidemiologic Research

C. Luther Fry, Wayne Hall
Published 2005 · Medicine
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The mortality and morbidity caused by alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug misuse represents a significant public health burden (Ezzati et al., 2002). A key part of the public health response is the collection of epidemiological and social science data to define at-risk populations to identify opportunities for intervention and to evaluate the effectiveness of policies in preventing or treating drug misuse and drug-related harm. The systematic use of epidemiological and social science research methods to study illicit drug use is barely 40 years old in the United States and United Kingdom, which have pioneered this approach. Because of the sensitive nature of epidemiological research on illicit drug use a unique set of ethical challenges need to be explicitly addressed by the field. Although ethics guidelines have been proposed (Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences, 1991), scholarship on the ethics of epidemiology is scant, and consensus on core values not yet achieved (Coughlin, 2000).

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