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Investigations in laboratory animals indicate that certain drugs that influence specific neurotransmitters can have profound effects on the recovery process. Even small doses of some drugs given after brain injury facilitate recovery while others are harmful. Preliminary clinical studies suggest that the same drugs that enhance recovery in laboratory animals (e.g., amphetamine) may have similar effects in humans after stroke. In addition, some of the drugs that impair recovery of function after focal brain injury in laboratory animals (e.g. haloperidol, benzodiazepines, clonidine, prazosin, phenytoin) are commonly given to stroke patients for coincident medical problems and may interfere with functional recovery in humans. Until the impact of pharmacologic agents on the recovering brain is better understood, the available data suggest that care should be exercised in the selection of drugs used in the treatment of the recovering stroke patient. Pharmacologic enhancement of recovery after focal brain injury may be possible in humans.