Dr. Levin is Chief of the Neurobehavioral Research Lab in the Psychiatry Department of Duke University Medical Center. He works as both a professor and a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He is currently in charge of a multitude of investigations centered around addiction and neurobehavioral toxicology. His research has led to many discoveries centered around the effects of substances of the brain and how this chronically effects an organism’s biology.
Dr. Levin started off his career as a student at Penn State University where he was initially premed. Due to his interest in the mind, he switched his major to psychology and later transferred to University of Rochester. He attended the University of Wisconsin for grad school and earned a master’s in psychology. He later earned a PhD in environmental toxicology. He later taught toxicology seminars, an experience he said was OK but was a lot of work.
Throughout his career, he discovered many different things related to behavior and toxicology. One of the first things he researched was link to cognitive impairments with exposure to electrical transformers. He also studied chlorine in water and how its reaction with organic materials creates trichloromethane otherwise known as chloroform which is carcinogenic. He told me that while drinking chlorinated water does slightly increase cancer rates, it significantly reduces infectious diseases and thus should be added to the water supply. Later in his career he started to study drug abuse primarily. Nicotine was the drug he studied heavily in his career due to its widespread use across the globe and its addictive properties. He found that it has cognitive enhancing abilities including how it may lessen the onslaught of Alzheimer’s disease. Haloperidol is another drug whose side effects he is credited for studying. He determined that tardive dyskinesia is a side effect of Haloperidol.
Dr. Levin’s primary focus at the moment however is opioid abuse. He is currently focusing on treatments for addiction by administering drugs. One of such studies I am currently working on. He is currently studying a drug that blocks the re-uptake of certain neurotransmitters. This acts as an indirect agonist to the opioid drug. His research found that the drug currently being studied as a treatment for opioid abuse has been shown to significantly reduce nicotine self-administration. When studying opioid abuse, the drug being used as the opioid is Remifentanil due to it’s rapidly acting properties as well as it’s very short half-life. He hopes that by finding a drug that treats addiction, the deaths from opioid overdose in this country may decrease.
When asked why he enjoys science, Dr. Levin credited the joy of discovery and how it is a tremendous reward. He said it is an incredible feeling when, through your research you are the first person in the world to know something. As for what he would change, the first thing that came to his mind was bureaucracy. He fills out too many forms and wrights too many proposals for funding. Then again, what other industry lacks excessive bureaucracy?