Barbara Mason, PhD

Pearson Family Chair
Director, Laboratory of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Director, Pearson Center For Alcoholism and Addiction Research
Department of Molecular Medicine


Scripps Research Joint Appointments

Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Faculty, Graduate Program

Other Joint Appointments

Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego
Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami School of Medicine

Research Focus

Research Description

The focus of the research programs in Dr. Mason’s Laboratory of Clinical Psychopharmacology is the clinical evaluation of potential medications for protracted abstinence and relapse prevention in alcohol use disorder and related conditions such as nicotine and cannabis use disorder. Research projects range from proof-of-concept early phase human laboratory studies to long-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical efficacy studies. A critical aspect of the conceptual framework under which the Laboratory of Clinical Psychopharmacology is predicated is the dynamic feedback from the research findings of pre-clinical and clinical studies, which are designed to streamline information and provide converging evidence for ultimate clinical use. The critical conceptual framework is that the pre-clinical animal studies will inform the clinical laboratory studies, and the clinical laboratory studies will in turn inform the pre-clinical animal studies to further refine basic research involving animal models and the neuropharmacological approach. This approach has identified neuropharmacological domains that are currently being translated into long-term clinical efficacy studies.

Dr. Mason conducted the seminal studies of nalmefene as a novel treatment for alcohol dependence; nalmefene (Selincro) has recently received regulatory approval for this indication throughout the European Union. Dr. Mason also served as overall Principal Investigator for the 21-site U.S. study of acamprosate for the treatment of alcohol dependence, conducted in support of FDA approval.  Results from her studies of gabapentin for the treatment of alcohol dependence served as the basis for developing a pivotal trial of Horizant (gabapentin enacarbil) as a treatment for alcohol use disorder. Dr. Mason currently serves as Director of the P60 Alcohol Research Center of Excellence.

Future Research Plans

Future research will include human laboratory studies to rapidly screen potential relapse prevention medications and clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of novel medications to prevent relapse and reduce symptoms of protracted abstinence in outpatients with alcohol or cannabis use disorders.


Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology), Long Island University, 1983
B.F.A., Pratt Institute, 1972

Professional Experience

2007-2017 Pearson Family Chair, Neuroscience, Scripps Research
2006-2017 Professor, Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders (CNAD), Scripps Research
2003-2006 Professor, Molecular and Integrative Neurosciences (MIND), Scripps Research
2000-2003 Professor with Tenure, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Miami
1993-2003 Director, Division of Substance Abuse, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Miami
1992-2003 Adjunct Faculty, The Rockefeller University
1997-2000 Associate Professor with Tenure, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Miami
1991-1997 Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Miami
1990-1991 Chief, Alcohol Disorders Clinic, Department of Psychiatry, New York Hospital / Cornell Medical Center
1987-1991 Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College
1984-1987 Instructor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College
1981-1984 Research Associate, Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College
1981-1984 Assistant Professor of Psychology, Long Island University
1980-1981 Psychology Intern, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center

Awards & Professional Activities

R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award, American Society of Addiction Medicine; 2017

National Institutes of Health (NIH): Member, National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse; 2012-2014

Weill Cornell Alumni Award; 2009

The Pearson Family Chair; an endowed chair in alcoholism and addiction research at The Scripps Research Institute; 2007-present

Elected Fellow; American College of Neuropsychopharmacology; 2005

MERIT Award for Medication Development; National Institutes of Health (NIH); 2003-2014

Dean’s Senior Clinical Research Award; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami School of Medicine; 1999-2000

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Member, National Advisory Council; 1998-2002

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Member, Clinical and Treatment Subcommittee Initial Review Group; 1993-1997

Teacher-Scientist Award; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Cornell University Medical College; 1989-1991

Editorial Activities: served as field editor for Neuropharmacology and as a member of the editorial boards for the Journal of Addiction Medicine, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, Journal of Substance Abuse, and the Ninth and Tenth Special Reports to the US Congress on Alcohol and Health from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

International activities: invited lectures on alcoholism and drug addiction for governments, academic institutions, and professional societies in Europe, Asia, North and South America and Africa. 

Selected References

All Publications

Ray, L.A., Grodin, E., Leggio, L., Bechtholt, A., Becker, H., Feldstein Ewing, S., Jentsch, J.D., King, A., Mason, B., O’Malley, S., MacKillop, J., Heilig, M., & Koob, G. The future of translational research on alcohol use disorder. Addiction Biology. 2020;e12903. (in press)

Loflin, M. J. E., Kiluk, B. D., Huestis, M. A., Aklin, W. M., Budney, A. J., Carroll, K. M., D'Souza, D. C., Dworkin, R. H., Gray, K. M., Hasin, D. S., Lee, D. C., Le Foll, B., Levin, F. R., Lile, J. A., Mason, B. J., McRae-Clark, A. L., Montoya, I., Peters, E. N., Ramey, T., ... Strain, E. C. The state of clinical outcome assessments for cannabis use disorder clinical trials: A review and research agenda. Drug and alcohol dependence, [107993]. (in press).

Falk, D.E., Ryan, M.L., Fertig, J.B., Devine, E.G., Cruz, R., Brown, E., Burns, H., Salloum, I.M., Newport, D.J., Mendelson, J., Galloway, G., Kampman, K., Brooks, C., Green, A.I., Brunette, M.F., Rosenthal, R.N., Dunn, K.E., Strain, E.C., Ray, L., Shoptaw, S., Ait-Daoud Tiouririne, N., Gunderson, E.W., Ransom, J., Scott, C., Leggio, L., Caras, S., Mason, B.J., Litten, R.Z. and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Clinical Investigations Group (NCIG). Gabapentin Enacarbil Extended-Release for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Multisite Trial Assessing Efficacy and Safety. Alcohol Clin Exp Re, 2019; 43:158-169.

Mason, B.J., Quello, S., Shadan F. Gabapentin for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Expert Opin Investig Drugs; 2018; 27(1):113-124

Mason, B.J. Emerging pharmacotherapies for alcohol use disorder. Neuropharmacology; 2017; 122:244-253

Koob, G.F. and Mason, B.J. Existing and Future Drugs for the Treatment of the Dark Side of Addiction. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology; 2016; 56:299-322

Mason, B.J. Acamprosate, alcoholism, and abstinence. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; 2015; 76(2):e224-e225

Vendruscolo, L.F., Estey, D., Goodell, V., Macshane, L.G., Logrip, M.L., Schlosburg, J.E., McGinn, M.A., Zamora-Martinez, E.R., Belanoff, J.K., Hunt, H.J., Sanna, P.P., George, O., Koob, G.F., Edwards, S., Mason, B.J. Glucocorticoid receptor antagonism decreases alcohol seeking in alcohol-dependent individuals. The Journal of Clinical Investigation; 2015; 125(8):3193-3197
Note: This is the first study to show glucocorticoid antagonism reduces alcohol craving and drinking in alcohol dependent individuals. 

Mason BJ, Quello S, Goodell V, Shadan F, Kyle M, Begovic A. Gabapentin treatment for alcohol dependence: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine; 2014; 174(1):70-77
Note: Results served as the basis for a pivotal trial of Horizant (gabapentin enacarbil) conducted in support of FDA approval as a new treatment for alcohol dependence.

Mason BJ, Crean R, Goodell V, Light JM, Quello S, Shadan F, Buffins K, Kyle M, Adusumalli M, Begovic A, Rao S. A proof-of-concept randomized controlled study of gabapentin: effects on cannabis use, withdrawal and executive function deficits in cannabis-dependent adults. Neuropsychopharmacology; 2012; 37(7):1689-98
Note: This is the only positive treatment study for cannabis use and withdrawal.

Mason BJ, Lehert P. Acamprosate for alcohol dependence: a sex-specific meta-analysis based on individual patient data. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research; 2012; 36(3):497-508

Crean, R.D., Crane, N.A., Mason, B.J.  An evidence-based review of acute and long-term effects of cannabis use on executive cognitive functions. Journal of Addiction Medicine; 2011; 5:1-8

Koob, G.F., Lloyd, G.K., Mason, B.J.  Development of pharmacotherapies for drug addiction: a Rosetta stone approach. Nature Reviews. Drug Discovery; 2009; 8:500-515

Mason, B.J., Light, J.M., Williams, L.D., Drobes, D.J.  Proof-of-concept human laboratory study for protracted abstinence in alcohol dependence: effects of gabapentin. Addiction Biology; 2009; 14:73-83
Note:  This paper is part of a special issue of Addiction Biology co-edited by Dr. Mason devoted to human laboratory approaches to addiction research.

Mason, B.J., Light, J.M., Escher, T., Drobes, D.J.  Effect of positive and negative affective stimuli and beverage cues on measures of craving in non treatment-seeking alcoholics. Psychopharmacology; 2008; 200:141-150

Mason, B.J., Goodman, A.M., Chabac, S., Lehert, P.  Effect of oral acamprosate on abstinence in patients with alcohol dependence in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial: the role of patient motivation. Journal of Psychiatric Research; 2006; 40:383-393
Note:  This 21-site study was conducted in support of FDA approval for acamprosate (Campral) treatment of alcohol dependence. Dr. Mason served as overall PI and was instrumental in the design of the protocol and counseling materials, which are available at

Mason, B.J., Goodman, A.M., Dixon, R.M., Abdel Hameed, M.H., Hulot, T., Wesnes, K., Hunter, J.A, Boyeson, M.G.  A pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic drug interaction study of acamprosate and naltrexone. Neuropsychopharmacology; 2002; 27:596-606
Note:  This was the first interaction study of these two new medications for alcohol dependence.

Mason, B.J., Salvato, F.R., Williams, L.D., Ritvo, E.C., Cutler, R.B.  A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of oral nalmefene for alcohol dependence. Archives of General Psychiatry; 1999; 56:719-724
Note:   NIH chose this project for presentation by Dr. Varmus, Director of NIH, to the U.S. Congress as a pivotal study of 1999.  Selincro (nalmefene) was approved as a new treatment for alcohol dependence throughout the European Union (2012). 

Mason, B.J., Kocsis, J.H., Ritvo, E.C., Cutler, R.B.  A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of desipramine in primary alcohol dependence stratified on the presence or absence of major depression. Journal of the American Medical Association; 1996; 275:761-767
Note:  This project was chosen by the American Medical Association (AMA) to be the lead article in JAMA and was the focus of an AMA media briefing. This work was described by Alan Gelenberg, M.D., in the Biological Therapies in Psychiatry Newsletter as “a landmark work of major public health significance.”


Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research

Alcohol Research Center of Excellence (TSRI-ARC)

Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA) Neuroimmune (INIA-Neuroimmune)

Huffington Post Article on gabapentin

Forbes Article on gabapentin

NPR article on gabapentin

U-T San Diego Article on gabapentin

Wall Street Journal Article on gabapentin