Bankole A. Johnson, DSc, MD, PhD, MPhil, FRCPsych (born 5 November 1959) is a licensed physician and board-certified psychiatrist throughout Europe and the United States who currently serves as Alumni Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. Johnson’s primary area of research expertise is the psychopharmacology of medications for treating addictions, and he is well-known in the field for his discovery that topiramate, a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) facilitator and glutamate antagonist, is an effective treatment for alcoholism. Professor Johnson also received national media attention for his appearance in the Home Box Office (HBO) original documentary feature, “Addiction”, which won the prestigious Governors Award, a special Emmy Award, from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Johnson was born on November 5, 1959 in Nigeria. Johnson attended King’s College in Lagos, Nigeria and received his diploma in 1975. He then went on to Davies’ College in Sussex, England followed by the Institute Catholique de Paris in Paris, France. Johnson graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1982 with a Medicinae Baccalaureum et Chirurgie Baccalaureum degree, the equivalent of an M.D. He went on to train in psychiatry at the Royal London and Maudsley and Bethlem Royal Hospitals, and to train in research at the Institute of Psychiatry (University of London). In 1991, Johnson graduated from the University of London with a Master of Philosophy degree in neuropsychiatry. Johnson conducted his doctoral research at Oxford University and obtained his Ph.D. equivalent in biomedical sciences from the University of Glasgow in 1993. Most recently, in 2004, Johnson earned his Doctor of Science degree in medicine from the University of Glasgow – the highest degree that can be granted in science by a British university.
Johnson joined the faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston in 1993 and later became the Deputy Chairman for Research and Chief of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Addiction in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio in 1998. In 2001, Johnson received the Dan Anderson Research Award from the Hazelden Foundation for his “distinguished contribution as a researcher who has advanced the scientific knowledge of addiction recovery.” In 2002, Johnson received the Distinguished Senior Scholar of Distinction Award from the National Medical Association. Johnson was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame in 2003 for his contributions to science, mathematics, and technology. On September 1, 2004, Johnson accepted an appointment to serve as Alumni Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the University of Virginia. Johnson became a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2007. In 2009 Johnson was named Associate Editor of the Editorial Board of The American Journal of Psychiatry and also named Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers in Psychiatry.
Johnson’s research focus is on the neuropsychopharmacology of addiction. His work integrates the neuroscience and behavioral aspects of addiction medicine with the goal of formulating a more thorough understanding of the basis of drug-seeking behavior and developing effective treatments. Central to his research is the role of and interaction between midbrain monoamine systems with a focus on serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)/glutamate and dopamine.
Johnson’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) paper, titled “Topiramate for treating alcohol dependence: a randomized controlled trial” and published in 2007, gained national and international media attention. The 14-week U.S. multi-site clinical trial involved 371 male and female alcoholics. Those patients taking topiramate had reduced heavy drinking and showed better results with lowering cholesterol, body mass index, liver enzymes, and blood pressure than those taking the placebo. The study results were featured on Reuters, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox News, USA Today, the Associated Press, and many other media outlets.
Johnson’s current research involves clinical trials and human laboratory studies, and includes neuroimaging and molecular genetics. He now incorporates neuroimaging evaluations into his drug interaction studies to identify the site-specific effects of abused drugs and to evaluate the effectiveness of potential medications for the treatment of addiction. Current studies include a clinical trial aimed at determining the effectiveness of ondansetron, a serotonin-3 antagonist, for the treatment of subtypes of alcoholics, as well as a human laboratory project trying to elucidate the effects of naltrexone and acamprosate on hepatic and renal function in alcohol-dependent individuals.
Honors and awards
- Inductee, Texas Hall of Fame for Science, Mathematics and Technology, 2003
- Appointed to the National Advisory Council for NIH/NIDA, 2004 – present
- Member, Medications Development Subcommittee of NIDA’s Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, 2004 – present
- Member, Extramural Advisory Board for NIH/NIAAA, 2004 – present
- Member, Medications Development Scientific Advisory Board for NIH/NIDA, 2005 – present
- American Psychiatric Association Distinguished Psychiatrist Lecturer Award, 2006 (for outstanding achievement in the field of psychiatry as an educator, researcher, and clinician)
- NIH Roadmap Consultant, 2006 – present
- Listed in "Best Doctors in America", 2007, 2009
- Fellow, Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2007 – present
- Distinguished Fellow, American psychiatric Association, 2008 – present
- American Psychiatric Association, Solomon Carter Fuller Award, 2009
1. Johnson BA, Campling GM, Griffiths P, et al. (1993) Attenuation of some alcohol-induced mood changes and the desire to drink by 5-HT3 receptor blockade: a preliminary study in healthy male volunteers. Psychopharmacology 112, 142-144.
2. Johnson BA, Jasinski DR, Galloway GP, et al. (1996) Ritanserin in the treatment of alcohol dependence—a multi-center clinical trial. Psychopharmacology 128, 206-215.
3. Chen YR, Swann AC, Johnson BA. (1998) Stability of diagnosis in bipolar disorder. J Nerv Ment Dis 186, 17-23.
4. Johnson BA, Ait-Daoud N. (2000) Neuropharmacological treatments for alcoholism: scientific basis and clinical findings. Psychopharmacology 149, 327-344.
5. Johnson BA, Ait-Daoud N, Prihoda TJ. (2000) Combining ondansetron and naltrexone effectively treats biologically predisposed alcoholics: from hypotheses to preliminary clinical evidence. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 24, 737-742.
6. Johnson BA, Roache JD, Javors MA, et al. (2000) Ondansetron for reduction of drinking among biologically predisposed alcoholic patients: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 284, 963-971.
7. Johnson BA, Ait-Daoud N, Bowden CL, et al. (2003) Oral topiramate for treatment of alcohol dependence: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 361, 1677-1685.
8. Johnson BA, Ait-Daoud N, Akhtar FZ, et al. (2004) Oral topiramate reduces the consequences of drinking and improves the quality of life of alcohol-dependent individuals: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry 61, 905-912.
9. Anton RF, O’Malley SS, Ciraulo DA, Cisler RA, Couper D, Donovan DM, Gastfriend DR, Hosking JD, Johnson BA, et al. (2006) Combined pharmacotherapies and behavioral interventions for alcohol dependence: The COMBINE Study: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 295, 2003-2017.
10. Johnson BA, Rosenthal N, Capece JA, et al. (2007) Topiramate for treating alcohol dependence: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 298, 1641-1651.
- "www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/psychiatric/staffandfaculty/research.cfm?uva_id=bj4x&hideintro=1". http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/psychiatric/staffandfaculty/research.cfm?uva_id=bj4x&hideintro=1.
- Johnson BA, Ait-Daoud N, Bowden CL, et al. 2003. Oral topiramate for treatment of alcohol dependence: A randomised controlled trial. Lancet 361, 1677-1685
- "NIH received two emmy awards for the addiction project" September 16, 2007. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/82613.php
- "www.hbo.com/addiction/thefilm/bios/6423_Bankole_Johnson.html". http://www.hbo.com/addiction/thefilm/bios/6423_Bankole_Johnson.html.
- "Drs. Bankole Johnson, Wen-Hwa Lee join luminaries in Texas Hall of Fame". February 2003. http://www.uthscsa.edu/mission/article.asp?id=123
- "Dr. Bankole Johnson, new chairman of Psychiatric Medicine". 2004. http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2004/15/johnson_bankole.html
- Johnson BA, Rosenthal N, Capece JA, et al. 2008. Improvement of physical health and quality of life of alcohol-dependent individuals with topiramate treatment: US multisite randomized controlled trial. Archives of Internal Medicine. 168: 1188-1199.
- "A pill to cure alcoholism? A new treatment may offer hope to millions of people battling alcohol addiction" June 13, 2008. http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/2008/06/13/a-pill-to-cure-alcoholism.html
- "Topiramate may help treat alcohol dependence" October 10, 2007. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/printerfriendlynews.php?newsid=85202
- "Study: Migraine pill helps some alcoholics taper off" October 9, 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/10/09/alcoholism.pill.ap/index.html
- "Pill helps alcoholics taper off drinking" October 9, 2007. http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_wires/2007Oct09/0,4675,AlcoholismPill,00.html
- "Migraine drug may treat alcoholism, too" October 9, 2007. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Drugs/story?id=3708419&page=1
- "Migraine pill helps curb drinking without detox: New approach called promising, but side effects still a problem, study finds" October 9, 2007. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21209314/
The Excelsior Program: http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/clinical/departments/psychiatry/patients/excelsior
HBO Addiction Film Series: “Addiction”: http://www.hbo.com/addiction/thefilm/centerpiece/618_segment_7.html
Frontiers in Psychiatry: http://frontiersin.org/psychiatry/psychiatry/missionstatement/