McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster researcher takes national mental health prize

Published: December 5, 2019

Innovative ways of understanding all types of addictions has garnered a McMaster researcher a major prize as Canada's rising-star mental health investigator.

James MacKillop will be accepting the Royal Mach-Gaensslen prize for Mental Health Research from the Mach-Gaensslen Foundation of Canada at an event in Ottawa today. The award worth $100,000 is given to recognize and support innovative and ongoing research.

MacKillop's research focus is on understanding the causes of addictions ranging from alcohol, cannabis, opioids, tobacco, gambling and food, and why some people fare well in treatment and others struggle, as rates of relapse which may range from 40 to 60 per cent. 

MacKillop is a professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster and a clinical psychologist at St. Joseph's. He founded the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research of St. Joseph's and McMaster five years ago, and launched the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research two years ago.  His research is collaborative and interdisciplinary, bringing together many scientific perspectives including clinical psychology, microeconomics, cognitive neuroscience and molecular genetics. 

"Addiction is too complex to be fully understood by any single discipline," he said, adding that many factors combine to lead to addiction including genetic vulnerabilities, early life stress and adversity, a person's social network, and concurrent mental health problems. His research shows that individuals afflicted with addiction overvalue the addictive substance or behaviour and undervalue alternative, healthy rewards. 

The Royal-Mach-Gaensslen Prize for Mental Health Research was established jointly in 2015 by the Mach-Gaensslen Foundation of Canada and The Royal's Institute of Mental Health Research, affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

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