A top university has asked its students to take part in a cocaine study - and they'll get paid to do so.
The Huffington Post UK has seen the email sent by a professor at King's College London (KCL) offering students the chance to participate in a "comparison of novel detection methods of cocaine".
The email, sent on Thursday afternoon, was distributed to hundreds of undergraduate and postgraduate students. The project, which has been approved by London Westminster Research Ethics Committee, "contributes to the College's role in conducting research, and teaching research methods".
Students are told "You are under no obligation to reply to this email, however if you choose to, participation in this research is voluntary and you may withdraw at anytime."
David Wilkinson, a student at KCL, tweeted the news on Thursday:
Two fellow students were evidently sceptical of the email, with one tweeting: "You can't be serious... can you? Just checked my email. I...er...wow."
Another described how he "thought it was a joke at first".
The email continues:
"HEALTHY VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
Who are we looking for?
Healthy male volunteers, 25 – 40 years of age, to take part in a clinical study involving nasal administration of cocaine. Medical and dental students will not be enrolled to this study.
What will happen?
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.
What are the requirements?
Potential participants must be fit and well, have no past medical history and not be users of recreational drugs. They must be happy not to cut or dye their hair for 120 days during the study follow up period.
How long will it take?
During the first visit we will check your suitability for the study. The second visit (main experiment) will be around thirty days later and will take most of the day. We would then like to see you 5 more times over a 90 day period so that some repeat biological samples can be taken.
Will you benefit from taking part in this study?
There is no direct benefit from taking part. Reasonable financial compensation will be made for your time, effort and expenses incurred from completing the study.
Who is overseeing the study?
The study will be supervised by the Clinical Toxicology department from St Thomas' Hospital, London. The research team includes a medical doctor (registrar or consultant) who will be present at all times.
All participant information will be anonymised and held confidentially. All participant information will be anonymised and held confidentially. If you are interested in taking part and would like to find more information please primarily address any enquires to Dr Andrew Kicman (Chief Scientific Officer) at [email address deleted] were [sic] you will be provided with a full participant information sheet."
A spokesman for KCL 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."