Richard W. Foltin, Ph.D.

Dr. Richard W. Foltin is Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry at The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and a Research Scientist VII at New York State Psychiatric Institute. He received his undergraduate training at Franklin & Marshall College (1978) and a doctorate from The University of Chicago (1983). Following completion of a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Foltin joined the faculty, where he remained until 1992. In 1992, Dr. Foltin joined the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, was a founding member of the Division on Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and is the Director of the Substance Use Research Center. Dr. Foltin has been engaged in research on the effects of drugs of abuse for over two decades, and has published extensively on the behavioral pharmacology of cocaine and marijuana in humans and the effects of drugs on feeding behavior.


Current Research Activities:

A Laboratory Model of Cocaine Abstinence

This project examines the effects of cocaine abstinence, after a period of controlled cocaine smoking, in experienced heavy cocaine users. A significant hindrance to the understanding of the relationship between cocaine abstinence and treatment responsivity is the lack of laboratory studies in which cocaine binge behavior is manipulated, cocaine access terminated, and withdrawal sequelae elucidated. The short- and long-term sequelae during abstinence following a cocaine binge may have a substantial impact on the likelihood of relapse to cocaine use. Therefore, it is important to document the behavioral/physiological changes occurring during cocaine abstinence.

Although laboratory data in humans is limited, sex differences in response to cocaine administration clearly exist. For this reason, the underlying theme of this research will be the investigation of possible sex differences during cocaine abstinence. These studies will provide data relevant to the behavioral and neurochemical mechanisms underlying the binge cycle of cocaine use, suggesting potential venues of further exploration with respect to treatment of male and female cocaine abusers.

Laboratory Studies of Novel Cocaine Pharmacotherapies

The purpose of this research is to examine, in a controlled laboratory setting, the interactive effects of potential medications in combination with cocaine in experienced cocaine users, who are not seeking treatment. Important information about safety, potential clinical utility, and behavioral mechanism of action of potential medications for cocaine dependence will be obtained by administering the medication to experienced cocaine users under carefully-controlled conditions in which they have the opportunity to self-administer cocaine. We evaluate the subjective and reinforcing effects of a range of smoked cocaine doses, comparing the effects obtained when participants have received active medication to when they have received placebo. One advantage of this model is that information about both behavioral mechanism of action and safety are obtained. This is especially useful with new medications for which less safety data are available. The medications we have chosen for this research were selected because of their effects on excitatory amino acids or GABA and because less information is available about them, making controlled laboratory studies essential before their use is an outpatient setting.

Training Opportunities:

Dr. Foltin is a faculty advisor on Dr. Kleber’s NIDA-funded Substance Abuse Postdoctoral Fellowship grant. He provides methodological training in the design and analysis of research protocols, teaching the importance of solid methodological design and clear understanding of the data analysis issues at the early stages in the design process. Data collection must always be viewed in the context of data analysis and each step of the project must be understood in terms of how that step, or any decision made at that step, affects study outcome. The research described above on the behavioral effects of cocaine can provide an excellent training opportunity for applicants to the Fellowship program

Recent Publications