In Memoriam: Roland Griffiths, PhD, Pioneering Psychopharmacologist

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A trailblazer in psilocybin studies, Dr. Roland Griffiths passed away at age 77 on October 16, 2023, of colon cancer.

More than 24 years ago, Roland Griffiths, PhD, began a groundbreaking research program with a study that investigated the effects of high-doses of psilocybin in healthy volunteers in a controlled setting (1). With the results from this study and the many more studies on psilocybin that followed, he is credited as helping to bring psychedelics back into the field of research (1,2).

Dr. Griffiths began at Johns Hopkins in 1972, after earning his PhD from the University of Minnesota (1). He was a distinguished Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his research, both in clinical and preclinical laboratories, included the effects of mood-altering drugs, caffeine, and other substances (3).


One of his several noteworthy studies was, “Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance,” a double-blind study on the short- and long-term effects of a high dose of psilocybin, published in 2006 (4). “When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences,” concluded part of the abstract from the study (4). “The ability to occasion such experiences prospectively will allow rigorous scientific investigations of their causes and consequences.”

Dr. Griffiths authored more than 400 journal articles and chapters, and also trained more than 50 postdoctoral research fellows (3). His work received grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH), where he also served as a consultant (1,3).

“Although Dr. Griffiths will not be around to see all the fruits of his labor, his influence of his legacy will reverberate well beyond his passing,” wrote one article covering his life and accomplishments (5). “One of the psychedelic industry’s true shining lights.”

“A hallmark feature of [psychedelic] experiences is that we’re all in this together,” Dr. Griffiths stated earlier this year (1). “It opens people up to this sense that we have a commonality and that we need to take care of each other.”


  1. Green, P. Roland Griffiths is dead at 77; led a renaissance in Psychedelics Research (accessed Oct 18, 2023).
  2. Smith, B. A. Psychedelic research pioneer Roland Griffiths passes at age 77 (accessed Oct 18, 2023).
  3. Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.d., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences (accessed Oct 18, 2023).
  4. Griffiths, R. R.; Richards, W. A.; McCann, U.; Jesse, R. Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacology 2006, 187 (3), 268–283 DOI: 10.1007/s00213-006-0457-5.
  5. Shapiro, M. Pioneering psychedelics researcher Roland Griffiths dies at 77 (accessed Oct 18, 2023).