Thank you, Roland, for your tremendous contribution to improving the human condition.
Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a titan in the worlds of psychedelic research and psychiatry, left his body on October 16, 2023. After being diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer, Roland gave us the profound gift of an intimate view of his experience with cancer and preparation for death.
Psychedelics: Spirituality, Mindfulness, and Mortality – Personal Reflections and Visions for the Future
His contributions to understanding psychedelic drugs and their effects have left a lasting impact on the field he helped bring into modernity. As a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, for over 50 years, Roland dedicated his career to studying the behavioral and subjective effects of drugs. Over the last 16 years, Dr. Griffiths and his team have published over 144 peer-reviewed articles about psychedelics in respected scientific journals. This research has led to a widespread reconsideration of the potential of psychedelics in the fields of science and medicine and inspired a new generation of researchers to follow in his footsteps.
Born in 1946 in Glen Cove, New York, Roland received his undergraduate degree from Occidental College in California in 1968 and earned his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Griffiths joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins that same year.
Roland mentored more than 60 postdoctoral research fellows and offered his insights to institutions like the National Institutes of Health. His involvement with the World Health Organization’s Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence showcased the recognition he garnered.
Roland had a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as a rigorous pharmacologist and data-driven scientist in both preclinical and clinical research. He brought this rigor to his later focus on psychedelics, particularly psilocybin, which opened new avenues of understanding and paved the way for more researchers to gain traction in this work. His research explored the impact of these compounds on human consciousness in long-term meditators and religious leaders. Utilizing brain imaging techniques like fMRI and PET scans, he sought to uncover the functional connections behind these effects. His therapeutic studies aimed to treat psychological distress in cancer patients, substance use disorders, and depression.
Psychedelic Science 2023 Opening Dinner Honoring Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D.
In 2020, Dr. Griffiths founded the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research with $17m in philanthropic funding, establishing the first permanent center for psychedelic research in North America.
It is particularly remarkable and groundbreaking that he directed his curiosity and expertise to investigate not only the potential for psychedelics to relieve suffering from psychiatric conditions and addictions but also to rigorously study their potential to produce spiritual experience and contribute to “the betterment of well people.”
Roland conducted online surveys to capture diverse psychedelic experiences, from mystical encounters to lasting improvements in mental health. His legacy lies not just in his findings but in his scientific rigor and immense curiosity about life. He’ll be remembered for his heart and deep caring for healing which was at the forefront of everything he did.
Roland leaves behind his wife Marla, two daughters, Jeannie and Sylvie, son Morgan, countless friends and colleagues, and a now mourning worldwide psychedelic community.