Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Translational Addiction Medicine Branch, Joint NIDA/NIAAA Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology Section


Clinical Director


Biomedical Research Center
251 Bayview Boulevard
Suite 200, Room 04A515
Baltimore, MD 21224



Research Topics

Founded by Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, the Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology (CPN) Section is a joint NIDA and NIAAA laboratory. The overarching goals of the CPN team are to understand mechanisms underlying addiction and to identify new therapeutic targets. These goals are strategic priorities for both NIDA’s and NIAAA’s missions. We use bidirectional translational approaches that span from basic science to experimental medicine proof-of-concept clinical studies, biospecimen analyses, and big data methods. Areas of interest include the intersection between addictive disorders and neuroendocrine systems, gut-brain axis, and other peripheral-central pathways, with the goal of identifying new targets and treatments. One of our primary approaches includes translational inpatient and outpatient human laboratory studies under well-controlled conditions (also referred to as experimental medicine studies). We further expand our work via collaborative transdisciplinary efforts ranging from basic science (e.g., bench, rodent, and non-human-primate work) that inform patient-centered work, to population-based human studies.


Dr. Leggio is a physician-scientist, whose clinical work and clinical research have been primarily focused on the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders and on the medical consequences of alcohol use disorder, especially alcohol-associated liver and cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Leggio, together with his team of trainees, colleagues, and collaborators, have conducted research on medication development, on the role of the microbiome-gut-liver-brain axis, on the role of neuroendocrine pathways in addiction, via human laboratory studies and clinical trials as well as via translational and reverse translational experimental medicine approaches in animal models. Dr. Leggio received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Rome and Agostino Gemelli Hospital, where he also completed residency and received Board Certification in Internal Medicine. He was a postdoctoral research associate in Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University, Providence, RI, where he joined the core faculty of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies as Assistant Professor in 2010. As PI at Brown University, he received extramural research funding from NIAAA and NIDA, as well as from several foundations. Dr. Leggio was recruited as a Tenure-Track Clinical Investigator (joint NIAAA/NIDA) at the NIH IRP, where he also serves as a NIH Senior Attending Medical Staff. In 2018, Dr. Leggio was awarded NIH tenure through the Central Tenure Committee and promoted to Senior Investigator (Clinical).

Dr. Leggio currently serves as the NIDA Clinical Director and Deputy Scientific Director. He was the founder in 2012 and current Chief of the Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology Section, a joint NIDA and NIAAA laboratory. He was the founder in 2020 and current Chief of the NIDA IRP Translational Addiction Medicine Branch. Dr. Leggio serves as the Director for the NIDA IRP Translational Analytical Core and senior medical advisor to the NIAAA Director. He is also Adjunct Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University, Adjunct Professor of Addiction Medicine at Johns Hopkins University and Adjunct Professor of Neuroscience at Georgetown University. He previously served on other NIH IRP roles, including Associate Director for Clinical Research for the NIDA IRP Medication Development Program, NIDA Acting Clinical Director, Chair of the joint NIAAA/NIDA Scientific Review Committee, and Vice-Chair of the joint NIDA/NIAAA Addictions Institutional Review Board.

In 2022, Dr. Leggio was elected Fellow of the American College on Neuropsychopharmacology. Among other honors, Dr. Leggio received the 2008 Nordmann Award from the European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism, a 2010 Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the 2016 Early Career Investigator Award from the Research Society on Alcohol, the 2018 Eva King Killam Award from the American College on Neuropsychopharmacology, the 2020 Jacob P. Waletzky Award from the Society for Neuroscience and the 2023 Ward & Ryan Donovan Lectureship Award from the American College of Medical Toxicology.

Selected Publications

  1. Lee MR, Shnitko TA, Blue SW, Kaucher AV, Winchell AJ, Erikson DW, Grant KA, Leggio L. Labeled oxytocin administered via the intranasal route reaches the brain in rhesus macaques. Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):2783.
  2. Agabio R, Sinclair JM, Addolorato G, Aubin HJ, Beraha EM, Caputo F, Chick JD, de La Selle P, Franchitto N, Garbutt JC, Haber PS, Heydtmann M, Jaury P, Lingford-Hughes AR, Morley KC, Müller CA, Owens L, Pastor A, Paterson LM, Pélissier F, Rolland B, Stafford A, Thompson A, van den Brink W, de Beaurepaire R, Leggio L. Baclofen for the treatment of alcohol use disorder: the Cagliari Statement. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018;5(12):957-960.
  3. Lee MR, Tapocik JD, Ghareeb M, Schwandt ML, Dias AA, Le AN, Cobbina E, Farinelli LA, Bouhlal S, Farokhnia M, Heilig M, Akhlaghi F, Leggio L. The novel ghrelin receptor inverse agonist PF-5190457 administered with alcohol: preclinical safety experiments and a phase 1b human laboratory study. Mol Psychiatry. 2020;25(2):461-475.
  4. Farokhnia M, Grodin EN, Lee MR, Oot EN, Blackburn AN, Stangl BL, Schwandt ML, Farinelli LA, Momenan R, Ramchandani VA, Leggio L. Exogenous ghrelin administration increases alcohol self-administration and modulates brain functional activity in heavy-drinking alcohol-dependent individuals. Mol Psychiatry. 2018;23(10):2029-2038.
  5. Leggio L, Zywiak WH, Fricchione SR, Edwards SM, de la Monte SM, Swift RM, Kenna GA. Intravenous ghrelin administration increases alcohol craving in alcohol-dependent heavy drinkers: a preliminary investigation. Biol Psychiatry. 2014;76(9):734-41.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Thursday, June 15, 2023