Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit Leaders in behavioral pharmacology research expanding our understanding and treatment of substance use disorders

The Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit (BPRU) at Johns Hopkins is a world leading site in the science of psychoactive drugs and behavior. Spanning the negative and positive effects of psychoactive drugs, whether illicit or legal, recreational drugs or medications, the BPRU takes a comprehensive approach to understanding all aspects of drugs, from substance use disorders and their treatment, to the development of novel psychoactive therapeutics. Few, if any, other research sites in the world have conducted human trials with such a wide variety of psychoactive drugs.

Here are some key substances among many studied by our researchers at BPRU.


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Cocaine and Methamphetamine

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mushroom and smaller mushroom


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About Our Research

For decades, the BPRU has conducted influential research and has contributed to major advances in treatments and science:

  • Early research on methadone treatment of opioid use disorder
  • Seminal work developing buprenorphine as a treatment for opioid use disorder
  • Development and refinement of abuse-liability methods now standard in FDA evaluations
  • Recognition of caffeine withdrawal as a scientific phenomenon and psychiatric diagnosis 
  • Modern-day resurrection of human research with classic psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin
  • Cannabis research that has informed the risks and therapeutics of cannabis use and informed regulation
  • Tobacco regulatory science has guided the FDA in its modern-day role of regulating tobacco and other nicotine products
  • The efficacy of behavioral treatments such as contingency management as powerful therapeutics in treatment

Our research spans many approaches and designs:

  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Randomized clinical trials
  • Abuse liability assessment
  • Medications development 
  • Cognitive effects of drugs
  • Behavioral effects of drugs and addiction
  • Brain imaging (MRI, PET)
  • Genetics and drugs
  • Neuroscience of drugs
  • Behavioral treatment of substance use disorders
  • Pharmacological treatment of substance use disorders
  • Integration of behavioral and pharmacological treatment
  • Psychiatric co-morbidity
  • Sexual, HIV, and other risks associated with drug use
  • Behavior economics of drug use and risk behavior including discounting and demand processes
  • Drugs and their interaction with pain
  • Drugs and sleep
  • Drugs and pregnancy
  • Women’s health issues and drug use

Our Team


The BPRU is the site for a T32 post-doctoral training program funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This training program has operated for over 35 years and graduates fill positions in academic medical centers, the pharmaceutical industry, government agencies, and teaching. The focus of the program is on real world training in clinical research related to addictions.
  • Fellowship

    The BPRU is the site for a T32 post-doctoral training program funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This training program has operated for over 35 years.

  • Internships

    The BPRU Student Internship Program is designed to provide direct experience in behavioral pharmacology and human research studies to interested students and recent graduates.

BPRU Studies You May Find of Interest

Psilocybin Treatment for Major Depression Effective for Up to a Year for Most Patients, Study Shows

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Reducing Adverse Effects of Epilepsy

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hand holding cbd vial next to cannabis plant

Psychedelic Treatment with Psilocybin Relieves Major Depression, Study Shows

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New Insight into Caffeine Use Disorder

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Molecule Of Caffeine

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Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit (BPRU)

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Campus
5510 Nathan Shock Drive
Baltimore, MD 21224-6823