Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health

Charles P. O'Brien, M.D., Ph.D.


Charles P. O'Brien, a native of New Orleans, earned MD and PhD degrees from Tulane University. He received residency training at Harvard, Tulane, University of London, and University of Pennsylvania in internal medicine, neurology and psychiatry.

As Chief of Psychiatry at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, he was responsible for over 9,000 psychiatric patients. Despite this large clinical responsibility, he was able to establish and direct a clinical research program that has had a major impact on the treatment of addictive disorders. 

His research group has been responsible for numerous discoveries described in over 500 publications that have elucidated basic information on the nature of addiction and improved the results of treatment for addictive disorders. His work involves discovery of CNS changes involved in relapse, new medications, behavioral treatments and instruments for measuring the severity of addictive disorders. Many of these discoveries are now utilized in common practice for the treatment of addictive disorders throughout the world. 

He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 and he has received numerous research awards as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of Bordeaux in 1994 and the Nathan B. Eddy award for research on addiction from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in 2003. He has been an adviser on drug policy to local and national governments since the 1970s and has chaired or served as member of numerous IOM committees dealing with the science and policy matters of abused drugs. 

O’Brien is past president of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease. Currently he is Kenneth Appel Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Vice Director of the Institute of Neurological Sciences and Director of the Center for Studies of Addiction. 

< Return to Faculty and Staff listing

Back to Top