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Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D.

Matthew Wayne Johnson, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D.
  • Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Expertise

Addiction Medicine, Drug Abuse Research, Drug Dependence

Research Interests

Human behavior change; psychedelics; behavioral economics; addiction, delay discounting (devaluation of future consequences); sexual risk behavior; tobacco regulatory science; drug administration; abuse liability; reinforcing effects ...read more

Background

Dr. Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins. He is one of the world’s most published scientists on the human effects of psychedelics, and has conducted seminal research in the behavioral economics of drug use, addiction, and risk behavior. Dr. Johnson earned his Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the University of Vermont in 2004.

Working with psychedelics since 2004, Dr. Johnson published psychedelic safety guidelines in 2008, helping to resurrect psychedelic research. As Principle Investigator he developed and published the first research on psychedelic treatment of tobacco addiction in 2014. Dr. Johnson and colleagues published the largest study of psilocybin in treating cancer distress in 2016. His 2018 psilocybin abuse liability review recommended placement in Schedule-IV upon potential medical approval. He is Principle Investigator on funded studies investigating psilocybin in the treatment of opioid dependence and PTSD. Beyond psilocybin, in 2011 Dr. Johnson published the first-ever blinded human research showing psychoactive effects of salvinorin A, the active constituent in Salvia divinorum. He also published in 2017 the first data indicating that MDMA pill testing services may reduce harm, specifically by reducing drug consumption of unknown or undesired adulterants.

Dr. Johnson is recognized for his research in behavioral economics, behavioral pharmacology, and behavior analysis. He has conducted seminal and widely cited research applying behavioral economic principles such as delay discounting and demand analysis to decision making within addiction, drug consumption, and risk behavior. This includes research determining delay discounting to be a fundamental behavioral process underlying addiction across drug classes, using economic demand analysis to determine the roles of nicotine and nonpharmacological factors in the abuse liability tobacco and other nicotine products, and using delay discounting, probability discounting, and demand analysis to understand sexual risk including condom non-use in casual sex situations. He conducted the first research administering cocaine to humans in determining that cocaine increases sexual desire and affects sexual decision making. He has conducted similar research administering methamphetamine and alcohol, examining effects on sexual decision making. He has published studies on drugs across nearly all psychoactive classes, including studies of cocaine, methamphetamine, tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, opioids, cannabis, benzodiazepines, psilocybin, dextromethorphan, salvinorin A, GHB, caffeine, and cathinone analogs compounds (so-called “bath salts”).

Dr. Johnson was 2019 President of the Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse Division of the American Psychological Association, and is current President of the International Society for Research on Psychedelics, an organization he founded with colleagues. He has received continuous NIH funding as Principal Investigator since 2009. He has reviewed for >75 journals and has served as guest editor on two special issues on psychedelics. Dr. Johnson has reviewed grants for NIH, NSF, the US Military, and multiple governments outside of the US. He is a standing member of the Addictions Risks and Mechansims (ARM) NIH study section. He has provided invited presentations in 13 nations.

Dr. Johnson has been interviewed widely by media about psychedelics and other drugs. These have included interviews by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Globe and Mail, the Daily Mail, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Denver Post, the Baltimore Sun, CNN, CBS News, NBC News, the Atlantic, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Vogue, Whole Living, the Washingtonian, Scientific American, Nature, Vice, Insider, Inverse, Healthline, and Psychology Today. Dr. Johnson has appeared for interviews on numerous television and radio shows including 60 Minutes, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Situation Room, Fox Business News’ Kennedy, the Dr. Oz Show, PBS’ Retro Report, Labyrint (television show in the Netherlands), Spectrum News NY1, the BBC World Service, NPR’s Morning Edition, NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, New Zealand Radio, and Newstalk Radio Ireland. Dr. Johnson’s panel discussion with Tim Ferriss at the Milken Institute Global Conference was broadcast on the Tim Ferriss Podcast. Dr. Johnson and his research were featured in an episode of Breakthrough on the National Geographic Channel, produced by Ron Howard, and in Michael Pollan's best-selling book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

...read more

Education

Degrees

  • Ph.D., University of Vermont (Vermont) (2004)
  • B.S., Eastern Oregon University (Oregon) (1998)

Additional Training

  • M.A., University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, (2002)
  • Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland / Human Behavioral Pharmacology (2007)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins. He is one of the world’s most published scientists on the human effects of psychedelics, and has conducted seminal research in the behavioral economics of drug use, addiction, and risk behavior. Dr. Johnson earned his Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the University of Vermont in 2004.

Working with psychedelics for 16 years, Dr. Johnson published psychedelic safety guidelines in 2008, helping to resurrect psychedelic research. As Principle Investigator he developed and published the first research on psychedelic treatment of tobacco addiction in 2014. Dr. Johnson and colleagues published the largest study of psilocybin in treating cancer distress in 2016. His 2018 psilocybin abuse liability review recommended placement in Schedule-IV upon potential medical approval. He is Principle Investigator on funded studies investigating psilocybin in the treatment of opioid dependence and PTSD. Beyond psilocybin, in 2011 Dr. Johnson published the first-ever blinded human research showing psychoactive effects of salvinorin A, the active constituent in Salvia divinorum. He also published in 2017 the first data indicating that MDMA pill testing services may reduce harm, specifically by reducing drug consumption of unknown or undesired adulterants.

Dr. Johnson is recognized for his research in behavioral economics, behavioral pharmacology, and behavior analysis. He has conducted seminal and widely cited research applying behavioral economic principles such as delay discounting and demand analysis to decision making within addiction, drug consumption, and risk behavior. This includes research determining delay discounting to be a fundamental behavioral process underlying addiction across drug classes, using economic demand analysis to determine the roles of nicotine and nonpharmacological factors in the abuse liability tobacco and other nicotine products, and using delay discounting, probability discounting, and demand analysis to understand sexual risk including condom non-use in casual sex situations. He conducted the first research administering cocaine to humans in determining that cocaine increases sexual desire and affects sexual decision making. He has conducted similar research administering methamphetamine and alcohol, examining effects on sexual decision making. He has published studies on drugs across nearly all psychoactive classes, including studies of cocaine, methamphetamine, tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, opioids, cannabis, benzodiazepines, psilocybin, dextromethorphan, salvinorin A, GHB, caffeine, and cathinone analogs compounds (so-called “bath salts”).

Dr. Johnson was 2019 President of the Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse Division of the American Psychological Association, and is current President of the International Society for Research on Psychedelics, an organization he founded with colleagues. He has received continuous NIH funding as Principal Investigator since 2009. He has reviewed for >75 journals and has served as guest editor on two special issues on psychedelics. Dr. Johnson has reviewed grants for NIH, NSF, the US Military, and multiple governments outside of the US. He is a standing member of the Addictions Risks and Mechanisms (ARM) NIH study section. He has provided invited presentations in 13 nations.

Dr. Johnson has been interviewed widely by media about psychedelics and other drugs. These have included interviews by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Globe and Mail, the Daily Mail, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Denver Post, the Baltimore Sun, CNN, CBS News, NBC News, the Atlantic, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Vogue, Whole Living, the Washingtonian, Scientific American, Nature, Vice, Insider, Inverse, Healthline, and Psychology Today. Dr. Johnson has appeared for interviews on numerous television and radio shows including 60 Minutes, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Situation Room, Fox Business News’ Kennedy, the Dr. Oz Show, PBS’ Retro Report, Labyrint (television show in the Netherlands), Spectrum News NY1, the BBC World Service, NPR’s Morning Edition, NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, New Zealand Radio, and Newstalk Radio Ireland. Dr. Johnson’s panel discussion with Tim Ferriss at the Milken Institute Global Conference was broadcast on the Tim Ferriss Podcast. Dr. Johnson and his research were featured in an episode of Breakthrough on the National Geographic Channel, produced by Ron Howard, and in Michael Pollan's best-selling book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

Lab

Dr. Johnson's Behavioral Economics laboratory applies behavioral and economic principles to understand a variety of topics related to drug use and risk behavior. This includes the effects of drugs, such as cocaine, alcohol, and methamphetamine, on decision making relevant to sexual risk behavior. It also includes behavioral economic research relevant to the regulation of tobacco and other nicotine products such as e-cigarettes.

Dr. Johnson is also Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Center on Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, where he conducts both basic research and therapeutic studies with psilocybin and other psychedelic compounds. He is Principal Investigator on a line of research examining psilocyibn as a smoking cessation medication, as well as funded upcoming studies testing psilocybin in the treatment of opioid addiction and PTSD.

Technology Expertise Keywords

Psychedelics, addiction, behavioral pharmacology, nicotine, behavioral economics, sexual risk behavior

Selected Publications

Johnson, M.W., Johnson, P.S., Rass, O., Pacek, L.R. (2017) Behavioral economic substitutability of e-cigarettes, tobacco cigarettes, and nicotine gum. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31, 851-860

Johnson, M.W., Garcia-Romeu, A.P., Cosimano, M.P., Griffiths, R.R. (2014). Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28, 983-92

Johnson, M.W., Bruner, N.R (2012). The Sexual Discounting Task: HIV risk behavior and the discounting of delayed sexual rewards in cocaine dependence. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 123, 15-21.

Johnson, M.W., MacLean, K.A., Reissig, C.J., Prisinzano, T.E., Griffiths, R.R. (2011). Human psychopharmacology and dose-effects of salvinorin A, a kappa-opioid agonist hallucinogen present in the plant Salvia divinorum. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 115, 150-5

Johnson, M.W., Richards, W.A., Griffiths, R.R. (2008). Human hallucinogen research: Guidelines for safety. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22, 603-620.

Contact for Research Inquiries

Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus
5510 Nathan Shock Drive
Behavioral Biology Research Center
Baltimore, MD 21224 map
Phone: 410-550-0056
Fax: 410-550-0030

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Activities & Honors

Honors

  • Award for Effective Presentation of Behavior Analysis in the Mass Media, 2020, Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis
  • Journal of Psychopharmacology Prize, for the manuscript “Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction.” This award recognizes the manuscript that received the highest level of citations of all original research articles published in Journal of Psychopharmacology in the 2014 volume., Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2018
  • Brady Award, for the manuscript “Opportunity costs of reward delays and the discounting of hypothetical money and cigarettes.” This award recognizes the manuscript that received the most citations in the previous 3 years, Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 2018
  • Fellow status; Recognizing evidence of unusual and outstanding contribution or performance in the field of psychology, American Psychological Association, 2016
  • Early Career Impact Award; Recognizes scientists who have made major contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior, Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and Association for Behavior Analysis International, 2014
  • Young Psychopharmacologist Award, American Psychological Association Division 28: Substance Abuse and Psychopharmacology, 2011
  • Extramural Clinical Research Student Loan Repayment Program Award, National Institutes of Health, 2008 - 2011

Memberships

  • College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
  • International Society for Research on Psychedelics (ISRP)
  • International Study Group Investigating Drugs as Reinforcers (ISGIDAR)

Professional Activities

  • 2019 President, Psychopharmacology & Substance Abuse Division (Division 28) of American Psychological Association (APA)
  • President, International Society for Research on Psychedelics (ISRP)

Videos & Media

Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

60 Minutes segment explores psychedelics research at Johns Hopkins, The HUB, Johns Hopkins University (October 14, 2019)

Psychedelic Mushrooms Are Closer to Medicinal Use (It’s Not Just Your Imagination), New York Times (October 3, 2018)

Psilocybin Paves Path For Addiction Research At Johns Hopkins, WAMU (October 15, 2019)

Johns Hopkins opening a new psychedelic research center, studying use of ‘magic mushrooms’ and more, The Baltimore Sun (September 04, 2019)

Psychedelic Mushrooms Can Help Depression, Anxiety, Addiction, NBCDFW (March 8, 2019)

Should I try microdosing at work? The science behind the Silicon Valley brain hack, Mic (October 24, 2019)

Psychedelics' Role in Beating Alcoholism Illustrated in LSD, Psilocybin Study, Inverse (May 17, 2019)

Denver Votes on Whether to Decriminalize ‘Magic Mushrooms’ New York Times (May 7, 2019)

Real-time testing of drugs at music festivals shows ‘Molly’ often isn’t ‘Molly’, The Washington Post (July 11, 2017)

New Millennial Patterns of Cocaine Use May Benefit Future Generations, Inverse (August 22, 2019)

Does marijuana lead to violence? Experts say there’s no clear link, Politifact (September 4, 2019)

Nancy Grace says pot users 'shoot each other' and 'kill families', Politifact (January 24, 2014)

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