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Robert L. Balster, Ph.D.

Robert L. Balster, Ph.D.
Butler Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Affililiate Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry
410 North 12th Street
R. Blackwell Smith Building Room 746A
P.O. Box 980310
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0310
Phone: (804) 828-8402
Fax: (804) 827-0304
Publications: selected | PubMed

Education: University of Houston, 1970

Research interests:  drug abuse potential assessment and medication development, tobacco regulatory science, science policy, global health, training

Dr. Balster is also the Coordinator for the VCU site for the U.S. State Department Humphrey Fellowship Program in Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Policy and a co-founder and co-director of the International Programme in Addiction Studies, an online master’s degree program. He is the founding Co-Director of the Virginia Youth Tobacco Project, a statewide coalition of tobacco scientists supported by funds from the Master Settlement Agreement. From 1997-2013 Dr. Balster was the Director of the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies and from 2011-2012, he was selected as a Jefferson Science Fellow with the Global Health Bureau at the US Agency for International Development and continues to serve as a Science Advisor for the Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition at USAID. He is a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), and the American Psychological Association. He is a Past President of the CPDD and a former member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence and the FDA Drug Abuse Advisory Committee. From 1998 to 2010 he was the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Dr. Balster began his career in behavioral pharmacology research and the development of animal models for the abuse-related effects of drugs, including work on drug discrimination and drug self-administration. He has worked with nearly every class of abused drugs but he published most extensively in the areas of NMDA antagonist pharmacology and the study of abused inhalants. In recent year, Dr. Balster has turned his attention primarily to the areas of research administration, translational and implementation science, tobacco regulatory science, international health, and training program development. In addition to publishing more than 280 papers in scientific journals, Dr. Balster has edited two books and authored over 50 book chapters.

Selected publications:

Balster, R.L. The Pharmacology of Inhalants. In: Ries, R.K., Fiellin, D.A., Miller, S.C. and Saitz, R. Eds.). Principles of Addiction Medicine. 5th edition, Hagerstown, Maryland: Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, in press, 2013.

Higgs, E.S., Zlidar, V.M. and Balster, R.L. Evidence acquisition and evaluation for U.S. Government evidence summit on protecting children outside family care. Child Abuse & Neglect 10:689-700, 2012.

Boothby, N., Balster, R.L., Goldman, P., Wessells, M.G, Zeanah, C.H., Huebner, G. and Garbarino, J. Coordinated and evidence-based policy and practice for protecting children outside of family care. Child Abuse & Neglect 10:743-51, 2012.

Balster, R.L. and Walsh, S.L. Abuse liability assessment. In: Stolerman, I.P. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, pp. 2-5, 2010.

Balster, R.L., Cruz, S.L., Howard, M.O., Dell, C.A. and Cottler, L.B. Classification of abused inhalants. Addiction 104:878-882, 2009.

Nicholson KL, Balster RL. (2009) The discriminative stimulus effects of N-methyl-D-aspartate glycine-site ligands in NMDA antagonist-trained rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 203(2):441-51.

Balster, R.L. How to serve as a reviewer and write reviews for peer reviewed journals. Invited speaker for Boston University School of Medicine Addiction Science Workshop. September, 2008. Video provided online at

Phipps, L.B., Balster, R.L., Slattum, P.W., Kirkwood, C.K.. An exploratory study of drug abuse and dependence information in package inserts. Journal of Addictive Diseases 26:25-34, 2007.

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