Dr. O’Brien is Kenneth Appel Professor and Vice Chair of Psychiatry, and Founding Director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he served as Chief of Psychiatry at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center until 2008. He earned his MD and PhD from Tulane University School of Medicine and received his residency training in internal medicine, neurology, and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Tulane University, the University of London, and the University of Pennsylvania. Despite heavy clinical responsibility, Dr. O’Brien has been able to establish and direct a clinical research program that has had a major impact on the treatment of addictive disorders.
Dr. O’Brien was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 and has received numerous research and teaching awards, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Bordeaux in 1994, the Nathan B. Eddy Award for Research on Addiction from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in 2003, the American Psychiatric Association Research Award in 2000, and the Gold Medal for Research from the Society on Biological Psychiatry in 2010. In 2010, he received the Sarnat International Prize for Mental Health from the Institute of Medicine, and in 2012, the Jellinek International Award for Alcoholism Research and the Isaacson Award for Alcoholism Research. In 2013, he received the Chevalier (Knight) of the French Legion of Honor for his contributions to French addiction science. In 2015, he received the Lifetime Science Award from NIDA/NIH for his research contributions. Dr. O’Brien has been an adviser on drug policy to local and national governments since the 1970s, has chaired or served as a member of numerous Institute of Medicine committees dealing with the science and policy matters of abused drugs, and has recently served as Chair of the Substance Use Disorders Committee for revision of DSM-5. His research group has been responsible for numerous discoveries such as opioid antagonists for alcoholism and the Addiction Severity Index described in more than 550 publications. Many of these discoveries are used throughout the world for the treatment of addictive disorders.