Roland R. Griffiths, PhD
PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES; DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE; THE OLIVER LEE MCCABE, III PHD PROFESSOR IN THE NEUROPSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS
DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR PSYCHEDELIC AND CONSCIOUSNESS RESEARCH
For the 50 years he has been on the Johns Hopkins faculty, Roland Griffiths’ principal research focus in both clinical and preclinical laboratories has been on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs, including extensive research with sedative-hypnotics, caffeine, and novel mood-altering drugs. Roland is author of over 400 scientific publications and has trained more than 60 postdoctoral research fellows. He has been a consultant to the National Institutes of Health, to numerous pharmaceutical companies in the development of new psychotropic drugs, and to the World Health Organization as a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence.
In 1994 Roland started a regular meditation practice that made him deeply curious about certain altered states of consciousness that felt profoundly meaningful to him. It was that curiosity about the nature of mind that prompted him in 1999 to initiate the first study in decades to rigorously evaluate the effects of a high dose of a classic psychedelic drug in healthy psychedelic-naïve participants. His initial 2006 publication, Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance, is often considered to be a milestone that marks the re-initiation of psychedelic research after decades during which research had been suspended due to widespread misperception that the risks of any psychedelic exposure were extraordinarily high. That initial study showed that a single high dose of psilocybin produced salient transcendent and insightful experiences that participants rated as among the most meaningful of their entire lifetime and to which they attributed enduring positive changes in well-being and life satisfaction.
A series of subsequent psilocybin studies in healthy volunteers conducted by Roland and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins have included beginning meditators, long-term meditators, and religious leaders. Therapeutic studies with psilocybin include treatment of psychological distress in cancer patients, treatment of cigarette smoking cessation, treatment of major depression, anorexia nervosa, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Other studies have examined non-psychedelic drugs, such as dextromethorphan, ketamine, and salvinorin A, that produce altered states of consciousness having some similarities to psilocybin. Brain imaging studies have examined pharmacological and neural mechanisms of action of psilocybin in both healthy and therapeutic populations.
Roland’s research group has also conducted a series of survey studies characterizing various naturally-occurring and psychedelic-occasioned transformative experiences including: mystical-type experiences, Near Death experiences, DMT entity-encounter experiences, God-encounter experiences, challenging experiences, psychologically insightful experiences, belief-change experiences, and experiences to which reduced anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders are attributed.