Psychedelics Community Mourns the Loss of Visionary Professor Roland Griffiths

photo of Roland Griffiths
Photograph courtesy of Johns Hopkins University

The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Roland Griffiths. 

As professor of neuroscience, psychiatry, and behavioral science and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, Griffiths was a truly visionary leader whose work forged the resurgence of contemporary psychedelics. 

As a community, and particularly as an academic center here at UC Berkeley, we are deeply indebted to Griffiths’ work, rigor and persistence, without which we would lack the stable foundations for modern psychedelic research that he carefully fostered.  

It was Griffiths’ landmark paper published in 2006 – Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance – that helped bring psychedelics back into the mainstream and contributed to the so-called “psychedelic resurgence” that has inspired so many.

Another hugely influential study published by Griffiths in 2016 showed that one dose of psilocybin significantly and enduringly reduced depression and anxiety and improved quality of life for those suffering from life-threatening cancer. The remarkable findings were reported in The New York Times and also inspired BCSP co-founder Michael Pollan to write his best-selling book, How to Change Your Mind. 

Griffiths’ continued creativity and curiosity about psychedelics and consciousness led to numerous groundbreaking studies on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances. His work played a pivotal role in the resurgence of interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy. 

Imran Khan, executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics said, “Roland’s work, and the manner in which he did it, inspired countless people to engage more thoughtfully with psychedelic science. All of us at the BCSP are saddened by his loss, while still grateful for his leadership. Our thoughts and condolences are with those who knew him best.”

“It cannot be overstated how important Roland Griffiths and his groundbreaking research have been for the field of psychedelics today,” said BCSP co-founder Michael Pollan. “He was truly unique — a rigorous, scrupulous, well-respected scientist and also a man unafraid to talk about consciousness, reality, and the fate of the species. The loss of Roland will be felt deeply by many in the psychedelics community.”