Edward Khantzian

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Edward Khantzian is a professor of psychiatry, part time at Harvard Medical School.[1] He is the originator of the self-medication hypothesis of drug abuse, which states that individuals use drugs in an attempt to self-medicate states of distress and suffering.[2] Dr. Khantzian is a first generation Armenian-American born in Haverhill Massachusetts. His parents were born in Turkey, his father coming to this country in 1912 and his mother enduring a more potentially devastating experience of living through the Armenian genocide that started in 1915. Despite that tragic era, including the forced marches, she survived and joined with her husband to come to the United States in the late 1920s. Edward was born in 1935 and grew up in Haverhill, a shoe town, where both parents worked in the then flourishing shoe industry. Educated in local school systems, he began his advanced studies in the Evening Divisions of Merrimack College and Boston University, graduating from the latter in 1958. After working as a technical writer for Raytheon for one year, he commenced his medical training at Albany Medical College and graduated in 1963 followed by an Internship at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. Subsequently he commenced his training in psychiatry at the Harvard Massachusetts Mental Health Mental Center. Completing his training in Psychiatry he was one of the founders of the then newest Harvard Department of Psychiatry at The Cambridge Hospital with which he has been affiliated most of his career. He completed psychoanalytic training at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute in 1973. Starting early in his career he became involved in multiple clinical and investigative studies of addiction, with an emphasis on pursuing a psychodynamic understanding of the psychological vulnerabilities that predispose to addictive disorders. Considered a pioneer in addiction studies and treatment by many, he has gained world-wide recognition for originating the self-medication hypothesis and developing modified psychodynamic individual and group treatments for drug-alcohol dependent individuals, as well as exploring and explaining how and why 12-step programs are effective. He is a founding member and past-president of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, the founding member and chair of the Committee for Alcoholism and Addiction for the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, and is a founding member and immediate Past President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s affiliated program, Physician Health Services, Inc. In 2016 the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society honored him by conferring him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.


  1. ^ "Harvard Catalyst Profiles: Edward John Khantzian, M.D." Harvard University. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  2. ^ Fetting, Margaret (2012). Perspectives on Addiction: An Integrative Treatment Model with Clinical Case Studies (PDF). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE. pp. 93–110. ISBN 9781412990998. Retrieved January 1, 2015.

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