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Robert Swift, M.D., Ph.D.

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Robert Swift

Title: Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior
Department: Psychiatry & Human Behavior

+1 401 863-6634, 1 401 457 3066

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Overview | Research | Grants/Awards | Publications

Robert Swift conducts clinical and laboratory research on the causes of and treatments for alcoholism and drug dependence. He is particularly interested in how medications act to reduce craving and other potential endophenotypes of addictive disorders. He conducts clincal trials in patients with substance use disorders to investigate the efficacy of medications alone as well as medications combined with non-medical treatments such as counseling. He is also interested in the adoption of these new medications into medical practice.


Dr. Swift received his B.A., Ph.D. and M.D.(with honors)degrees from the University of Chicago. He completed a residency in Psychiatry at Yale University and is Board Certified in Adult Psychiatry and in Addiction Psychiatry. He conducts clinical and laboratory research on the pharmacological treatment of alcohol and drug abuse and dependence. He is a recipient of research grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and from foundations and pharmaceutical companies. He has been the site Principal Investigator for several industry and NIH sponsored clinical trials of addiction treatments, including the NIAAA COMBINE Study, a cooperative clinical trial investigating combined pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in the treatment of alcohol dependence. He serves frequently as a member of advisory committees to government agencies and industry. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), and a regular member of the Neural Basis of Psychopathology, Addiction and Sleep (NPAS) grant review committee at the NIH. Dr. Swift is the Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Providence VA Medical Center, where he directs a growing Research Service.

Research Description

My area of academic interest is the neuropsychopharmacology of alcohol and drug dependence. Since 1984, I have managed an externally funded alcohol research program that has conducted research funded by grants and contracts from institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), foundations, pharmaceutical companies, and Brown University. Currently, I have active funding for several grants and contracts, for which I am principal investigator (PI). These include a federally funded contract to develop an alcohol biosensor to provide real-time monitoring of blood alcohol levels and a federally funded grant, the multi-site National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) cooperative Quetiapine Study.

My group also conducts laboratory studies of the mechanisms of action of medications to reduce on alcohol drinking and alcohol intoxication. We are currently conducting human laboratory research using an alcohol self-administration paradigm to explore the effects of medications such as topiramate and arizapiprazole, and serotonergic medications, in reducing alcohol consumption. intoxication.

We are also exploring the genetic factors that may influence risk taking during alcohol. We recently completed an R21 grant to investigate alcohol-related endophenotypes in American Samoa.


1972-1976 Neurosciences Training Grant, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
1976 Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society
1977 Harry Ginsberg Award of the University of Chicago in Physiology
1979 General Honors with M.D. Degree, University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine
1984 Travel Fellowship Award, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
1993 Honorary Degree, Master of Arts Ad Eundem, Brown University
1994-1998 Chosen one of the top psychiatrists in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly
1997 Fellow, American Psychiatric Association (APA)
2003 Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association
2000 Elected to membership, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)
2005 Elected to Board of Directors, Research Society on Alcoholism
2006 Elected Secretary, Research Society on Alcoholism
2011 Elected to Fellow status, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)


American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)
American Psychiatric Association (APA)—Distinguished Fellow
International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ISBRA)
Research Society for Alcoholism (RSA)

Funded Research

Ongoing Research Support

Department of Veterans Affairs, Funding: Project Period: 2010-2013, Amount: $250,000 Direct Costs
"CSP #563 - Prazosin and Combat Trauma PTSD",
The goals of this multisite VA Cooperative Study are to conduct a placebo-controlled clinical trial of the alpha-adrenergic antagonist medication prazosin, in the treatment of PTSD symptoms.
Role: Site PI

R01 AA15753 (PI Swift), Funding NIAAA, Project Period: 2007-2012, Amount: $1.5M Direct Costs
"Aripiprazole and Topiramate on Free-choice Alcohol Use",
This laboratory study will examine the mechanisms of action of two promising medications being developed for the treatment of alcohol dependence: the dopamine partial agonist aripiprazole and the glutamate/GABA medication topiramate.

View My Full Publication List in pdf format

Selected Publications

  • Hutchison KE, Ray L, Sandman E, Rutter MC, Peters A, Davidson D, Swift R (2006). The Effect of Olanzapine on Craving and Alcohol Consumption. Neuropsychopharmacology 31(6):1310-7.(2006)
  • Anton RF, O'Malley SS, Ciraulo DA; Cisler RA, Couper D, Donovan DM, Gastfriend DR, Hosking JD, Johnson BA, LoCastro JS, Longabaugh R, Mason BA, Mattson ME, Miller WR, Pettinati HM, Randall CL, Swift R, Weiss RD, Williams LD, Zweben A, for the COMBINE Study Research Group. (2006) Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol Dependence: The COMBINE Study: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 295: 2003-2017.(2006)