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Welcome to the HAPPY Lab!

Drugs icons on natural wooden cubes. Cannabis leaf mushroom and syringe on wooden blocks.

At the HAPPY lab, we are dedicated to understanding the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain and behavior. Recreational substance use is so widespread that it may even be considered usual.  Over 80% of Americans aged 12 and over report lifetime use of a legal substance and 50% report lifetime use of an illicit substance. Yet, only a relatively small proportion of these people will progress to a pattern of unhealthy use. Our research is strongly committed to understanding the biological reasons why some people may be protected against developing problematic substance use while others are not. 

You can read more about our studies in the Research section and how to participate in our ongoing studies.


We are also passionate about public education. As a publicly funded research group, we are responsible for communicating new findings and providing informational resources on the effects of different drugs. It is equally important for us to provide guidance and tips for people to evaluate and control their own substance use, and also supply information on evidence-based treatments and how to access help if needed. 

Finally, we are devoted to ending the stigma of drug and alcohol use disorders. This stigma perpetuates suffering and prevents people from seeking help (less than 10% of people with a use disorder receive any treatment).

Stigma also counteracts public health initiatives that are proven effective at reducing harm due to drug use.

Our Research

Our studies primarily examine the factors that influence the transition from recreational drug use to more hazardous use. For example, genetic, personality, environmental (including stress), and physiological (including biological sex) factors may all influence the risk that someone may progress from recreational to harmful use of a substance.

At the HAPPY lab, we examine how psychoactive substances influence a person's mood, their behavior (for example attention or memory), and physiology (such as heart rate, blood pressure, hormone levels). 

Studies that administer drugs or alcohol in a carefully controlled research setting are vital to understanding

basic brain functions and to learn more about how substance use disorders develop.

We follow guidelines published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (NACDA) for the safe and ethical administration of drugs and alcohol to fully screened volunteers.

Drug and Alcohol Research News

September is National Suicide Awareness Month

Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know may be having thoughts of suicide or are facing emotional distress, reach out to 988 for 24/7 confidential support.

HAPPY Lab Gallery

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