Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

Currently, Dr. Shaffer is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; in addition, he is the Director of the Division on Addictions at The Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate. During recent years, he has served as principal or co-principal investigator on a variety of government or foundation sponsored research projects. Currently, he focuses his efforts on the clinical, research and educational activities associated with his research dealing with psychiatric epidemiology, the identification of behavioral markers for addiction, homelessness, and psychiatric co-morbidity among multiple DUI offenders.

Dr. Shaffer is dedicated to training an audience of professionals at the Addiction Medicine conference, a course designed to explain practical methods of diagnosis, intervention and management of patients with substance abuse problems.  The program has included presentations on the basic science of addiction medicine, treatement of withdrawal syndromes, and treatement of pain in the addicted patient.  The course awards credit for Continuing Medical Education and is co-sponsored by the Division on Addiction. Please visit the Harvard Meical School CME website for more information.

Dr. Shaffer is the founder of the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders. The Academy represents the first international credentialing body for clinicians working in the addictive disorders. He also was a founder of the Transparency Project, the world’s first data repository for privately funded addiction research. He continues to edit the DRAM, The Drinking Report for Addiction Medicine, which provides readers with direct access to the latest scientific information on alcohol use and abuse. He is the lead author of Change your gambling, change your life: strategies for managing gambling and improving your finances, relationships and health.

He is the past editor of The Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, and The Journal of Gambling Studies; he is past associate editor of The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. Dr. Shaffer also has served as a member of the many editorial boards, including the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Advances in Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. Dr. Shaffer has served as an ad hoc reviewer for many journals including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Archives of General Psychiatry. Dr. Shaffer also is the creator of Expressions of Addiction, a fine art photography project depicting the lives and struggles of people with addiction (

Dr. Shaffer’s major research interests include, the social perception of addiction and disease, the philosophy of science, impulse control regulation and compulsive behaviors, gambling disorders, addiction treatment outcome, and the natural history of addictive behaviors. Dr. Shaffer has written extensively about the treatment of addictive behaviors and the nature of addiction, including more than 200 chapters, journal articles, and reviews. He also has published more than 120 newspaper articles, and 22 books or monographs.

Most importantly, Dr. Shaffer continues to marvel and enjoy the professional development of his younger colleagues at the Division on Addiction.  They are superstars in the field od addicion studies.  With his collaugues, he has been very busy with a variety of new scholarly publications.  A sampling of recent articles includes:

  • Shaffer, H. J., LaPlante, D. A., & Nelson, S. E. (Eds.). (2012). The APA Addiction Syndrome Handbook (Vol. 1. Foundations, Influences, and Expressions of Addiction). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association Press.
  • Shaffer, H. J., LaPlante, D. A., & Nelson, S. E. (Eds.). (2012). The APA Addiction Syndrome Handbook (Vol. 2. Recovery, Prevention, and Other Issues). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association Press.
  • Shaffer, H. J., Gray, H. M., Nelson, S. E., & LaPlante, D. A. (in press). Technology, the Internet, and Gambling: How the Medium Can Facilitate Addiction, Adaptation, and Intervention. In D. Faust, K. Faust & M. N. Potenza (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Digital Technologies and Mental Health: Oxford University Press.
  • Planzer, S., Gray, H. M., & Shaffer, H. J. (in press). Associations between national gambling policies and disordered gambling prevalence rates within Europe. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.

Dr. Shaffer is proud to have recently celebrated the birth of his granddaughter Hadley Katherine Shaffer, and publishing two articles with his daughter Paige Shaffer, who has completed her masters degree in public health. He was also recently awarded The American Library Association Choice award for the APA Addiction Syndrome Handbook (Volumes 1&2).

“It’s going to be very important for us to understand that driving under the influence isn’t the result of only alcohol use,” says Dr. Shaffer. “Driving under the influence is the result of all kinds of issues, including mental health issues, social issues, and factors that impact others to make decisions that aren’t in their best interest or in the public’s best interest.” Dr. Shaffer will help us advance responsibility by placing emphasis that a better understanding is required to advance responsibility; our CARS project will provide a stable foundation for better understanding of DUI offenders.

We invite you to learn more about Dr. Shaffer and the work he does.

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Dr. Howard Shaffer on his work in drunk                               Dr. Howard Shaffer on inspiration and
driving research                                                            changes he would like to see

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