Professor Fabrizio Schifano studied at the University of Padua, qualifying in both psychiatry and clinical pharmacology. He spent several years as a consultant in the Italian health service before moving to the UK to lecture at St George’s University of London. In 2006 he joined the University of Hertfordshire as Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics – a role he combines with part-time work as an addiction psychiatrist for the Hertfordshire NHS Trust.
His academic background together with a working knowledge of several European languages – his ‘peculiarities’ as he calls them – are a great advantage in his research, he says: ‘It’s quite unusual for physicians to train in both these disciplines but understanding the brain’s pathways is very useful when dealing with addiction. Collaborating on international projects is also easier when you can communicate with colleagues from different countries.’
Professor Schifano has added significantly both to the understanding of biomedical issues and the clinical science of addiction. He has over eighty research papers to his name, with topics ranging from the impact of stimulant synthetic drugs on mental health to mortality studies for a range of drugs, including ecstasy.
Professor Schifano has led three EU-funded projects looking at the issue of ‘legal highs’. The first, in 2002, implemented a method of assessing the Web in relation to trafficking, consumption and synthesis of both licit and illicit compounds. In 2008, the Psychonaut Web Mapping project developed a multilingual web scanning system to identify and categorise novel compounds/combinations. Over four hundred psychoactive substances have now been identified, and technical data on thirty submitted to the Psychonaut/ReDNet database. Clinicians are able to access the information via the project database, including topics such as the treatment and management of the date rape drug GBL/GHB and the first comprehensive review of mephedrone including mortality rates.
On the back of this success, the Recreational Drugs European Network (ReDNet) was launched at the School of Pharmacy, University of Hertfordshire, in 2010, funded by the EU’s Public Health Programme.
As drug abuse is a real social concern and never far from the headlines, Professor Schifano’s expertise is in great demand. He is a regular keynote speaker at international conferences and has acted as an advisor to the UK, Italian and other European governments on preventative measures in relation to substance misuse.
He is a member of the Specialist Advisory Group (Psychiatry) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and speaks on legal highs and research chemicals for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Most recently, he was appointed to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
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