Staff & Science Advisory Board

SAM’s Science Advisory Board is composed of world-recognized experts in addiction and its treatment. They work to advance public health and safety by championing our four main objectives.

SAM President and CEO. Author, consultant, advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations, and assistant professor, Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., has studied, researched, written about, and implemented drug policy for almost 20 years. He has worked in the Clinton (2000), Bush (2002-2003) Administrations, and in 2011 he stepped down after serving more than two years as the senior advisor to President Obama’s drug control director, having been the only drug policy staffer to have ever served as a political appointee in a Democrat and Republican administration. He has appeared since at the Aspen Ideas and New Yorker festivals, on the Organization of American States blue ribbon commission advising hemispheric drug policy, and in hundreds of forums and discussions promoting the ideas outlined in his first book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, published by Beaufort. He has been featured on the front page of the New York Times and in virtually every major media publication and news channel on the subject of drug policy.

Dr. Sabet is the Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and an Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. With Patrick J. Kennedy, he is the co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). He is also a policy consultant to numerous domestic and international organizations through his company, the Policy Solutions Lab. His current clients include the United Nations, where he holds a senior advisor position at the Italy-based United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. He also recently served as the only non medical doctor on the writing committee establishing the official position on marijuana legalization for the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

In addition, he advises several non-governmental organizations working to reduce drug abuse and its consequences, and serves in an international role as an advisor, in various capacities, to the United Nations and other multi-national organizations.

Dr. Sabet’s regular blog is housed at the Huffington Post and he regularly contributes to opinion-editorial pages, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Los Angeles Times. Two of his op-eds published since 2011 have earned him a “Five Best Columns” distinction by The Atlantic. He is the winner of the 2014 Nils Bejerot Award for Global Drug Prevention, given at Stockholm City Hall by the anti-drug organization chaired by H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden and the John P. McGovern Award for Drug Prevention given by the Institute for Behavior and Health, and Robert DuPont, the founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

He received his Doctorate of Philosophy and Masters of Science from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar in 2007 and 2002, respectively, and his B.A. with high honors in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001.

JeffSAM Executive Vice President and Director of Government Affairs  

Former diplomat and international public policy consultant, Jeffrey Zinsmeister is an expert in public policy, international affairs, and government relations, with particular experience in drug policy and drug demand reduction programs.  Jeffrey comes to SAM from leading management consulting firm Bain & Company, where he provided advice to Latin American governments on complex public policy matters, and assisted in their implementation. He has drafted legislation and developed political strategy supporting multi-billion-dollar public initiatives for heads of state and Cabinet-level officials.

Previously, Jeffrey served as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department. During that time, he spent two years at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City directly overseeing a $55 million drug demand reduction and anti-corruption foreign assistance program. The U.S. Department of State recognized the results of his work, including the negotiation of over $14 million in new U.S.-Mexico initiatives, with citations of merit.

He also handled international and commercial litigation for the California-based law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and clerked for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Additionally, he has litigated before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

A non-resident fellow at the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute, Jeffrey publishes articles on narcotics control and corruption that have appeared in leading U.S. and Mexican publications. At the invitation of the U.S. Foreign Service Institute, he has also taught classes on fraud prevention. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, he moved north to receive his A.B. from Harvard College, and then west to earn a J.D. from the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).  Beyond his native English, Jeffrey speaks fluent Portuguese and Spanish.

adgerDr. Hoover Adger is Professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Director of Adolescent Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, which he joined in 1984. Since that time, he has served as Director of the Substance Abuse Assessment/Intervention Team at The Johns Hopkins Hospital Adolescent Program and as Director of The Johns Hopkins Substance Abuse Faculty Development Programs. In February 1997, Dr. Adger was selected to fill the position of Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. In July 1998, he returned to Johns Hopkins to resume his duties as a full-time faculty member.

From 1999-2005, he served as Co-Director of the Strategic Planning Initiative funded by HRSA and SAMHSA/CSAT to advise the federal government and others on improving and expanding

interdisciplinary education and training of health professionals in substance use disorders. He currently serves as principal investigator and project director of the HRSA-funded Leadership & Education in Adolescent Health project at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and as the faculty leader of the Florence Sabin College in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Adger also is a past president of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse and a past president of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.

Dr. Adger continues a five-year study of residents’ knowledge, attitudes and skills in substance abuse. A major emphasis for him has been on building an infrastructure and funding base for a new program, “The Family Program for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse.”  He is also the Associate Director of the Strategic Planning Initiative for a project funded by HRSA to develop a strategic plan which will advise the federal government and others on improving and expanding interdisciplinary and discipline-specific substance abuse disorders-related education and training in medicine, psychology, pharmacy, social work and allied health.

Cort (1)
Ben Cort’s passion for recovery, prevention and harm reduction comes from his own struggle with substance abuse. Sober since June 15, 1996, Ben has been a part of the recovery community in almost every way imaginable. From recipient to provider to spokesperson, Ben has a deep understanding of the issues and a personal motivation to see the harmful effects of drug and alcohol abuse minimized.

Today, he serves as director of professional relations for an adult substance-addiction treatment hospital. However, Ben built much of his career outside of the field of substance abuse recovery. Until 2007, he was the director of human resources at an S&P 500 firm. But his departure from that role did, indeed, compel him to do do more to help people enduring the substance struggles he knows so well. Ben started out by working to support a Colorado-based nonprofit that helps people regain sobriety, Phoenix Multisport (PM). As an original board member and then the nonprofit’s first full-time employee, he was instrumental in building Phoenix Multisport into a nationally recognized organization lauded for its innovative approach to building sober communities around sport and healthy activities. He worked extensively with the treatment community and with drug courts and the therapy community as advisor, a member of clinical teams, frequent speaker and liaison.

As someone who understands the experience of addiction treatment as much as the leadership of the programs delivering that treatment, Ben brings a holistic, compassionate and informed perspective to SAM’s efforts.

Dr. A. Eden Evins is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Addiction Medicine and the Addiction Research Program of the Massachusetts General Hospital.

She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and her medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She completed an internship in pediatric medicine at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and her residency in psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and Harvard-Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program in Boston, where she was also chief resident. Dr. Evins conducted a fellowship in molecular biology at the Mailman Research Center of McLean Hospital and a second fellowship in clinical and translational research at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She received a master’s degree in public health in clinical effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Evins’ research interests include development of novel pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for nicotine dependence and for prevention of relapse to nicotine and other addictive disorders in people with and without major mental illness. Her interests also include development of personalized treatment algorithms, pharmacotherapy for negative symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. She has authored book chapters, reviews and articles that have been published in prestigious scientific journals, such as the American Journal of Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, Neuropsychopharmacology, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, and the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Dr. Evins has received two career awards from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institute of Health (NIH), has twice received a National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award, received the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit Young Investigator Award, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program Young Investigator Award. She is currently funded by a NIDA career development award to mentor young scientists in patient-oriented addiction research and to continue her work in development of personalized treatments for addictive disorders, and by two NIDA R01 grants, two R21 grants and one U01 grant for the study of novel pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for addictive disorders.

thBHR6UC6ZJudge Arthur  Burnett

As National Executive Director of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr. operates as an advisor on many issues facing American youth including juvenile delinquency, neglect, abuse and the foster care system.

Currently on sabbatical, Judge Burnett, Sr. also serves as the senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia where he hears cases involving neglect, abuse, termination of parental rights, and adoption. He is also the court’s community relations liaison judge, with the responsibility of preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency and promoting improvements in the foster care and adoption systems of the district.

Judge Burnett, Sr. he began his law career in 1958 specializing in fraud, obscenity and public integrity criminal cases in the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the United States Department of Justice in the Criminal Division and serving as a special prosecutor for the U. S. Department of Justice. From 1965 to 1969, he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. where he prosecuted homicide and other cases, for nearly four years. In 1968 he became First Legal Adviser for the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department.

In 1969, Judge Burnett, Sr. was appointed the first African American United States Magistrate in the United States. He served until 1975 and then became the Legal Advisor for the United States Civil Service System. From 1977 to 1980, he was also a legal advisor to the President of the United States on all civil service and personnel laws and as one of the President’s chief representatives in dealing with federal personnel system bills pending before the U.S. Congress. In 1980 he was again appointed United States Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and served until appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the President in 1987.

Judge Burnett, Sr. received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a minor in Economics summa cum laude from Howard University and his Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 1958. Highlights of his college and law school years include being elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a Howard University junior, graduating from New York University School of Law in the top 10% of his class and as a Founders’ Day Award Recipient, and holding the title of Associate Research Editor of its Law Review. He was a member of the American Bar Association Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and the District of Columbia Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. He is a former Chair of the National Bar Association Juvenile Justice Task Force and former Chair of its Juvenile Justice Committee.

SamuelsWill Jones
Special Assistant for Communications and Outreach

Coming from a legacy of civil rights leaders in Washington, D.C, Will Jones is dedicated to continuing the heritage of promoting the healthy progression of the nation, specifically among the African-American community. Jones is on a mission to impact policies that will keep illicit drugs out of reach for youths and curb the disproportionate targeting of communities of color by drug companies. Partnering with national drug policy advisors and leaders around Washington, D.C., Jones founded Two Is Enough (TIE DC) to foster progress in drug education and expose and combat the negative social, health, and economic consequences of legal and illegal drugs.

Mr. Jones graduated Cum Laude from Columbia International University (CIU) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Business and was inducted into the CIU Delta Epsilon Chi Honor society.  Mr. Jones has served in various leadership roles and has been a recipient of scholarships and awards for leadership and societal change including: delegate to the South Carolina Student Legislature, president of the CIU African-American Student Association, recipient of CIU Presidential and Leadership scholarships, member of the CIU Student Senate, and a NCCAA scholar athlete. Since a teen, Mr. Jones has served in missions, primarily in Quebec and also in the Dominican Republic and France. He continues to use different outlets to serve the homeless, low-income, and minority communities here in D.C.

He has recently joined SAM as Special Assistant to the President for Communications and Outreach.

Dr. Stuart GitlowStuart Gitlow is the Executive Director of the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease, which he started in 2005 to ensure medical student access to training that stimulates them to develop and maintain interest in working with patients with addiction. He serves as Chair of the AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health. Dr. Gitlow is the President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and serves as ASAM’s delegate to the AMA. Board certified in general, addiction, and forensic psychiatry, Dr. Gitlow has an active addiction medicine practice.

Graduate of MIT and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Gitlow’s psychiatric and public health training took place in Pittsburgh, following which he went to Harvard for his forensic fellowship. Now dividing his time between his clinical practice in New England and his academic work in New York City, he is on faculty at both Dartmouth and Mount Sinai. Dr. Gitlow formerly produced both Health Channel and ABC programming at America Online.

skharrispicSion Kim Harris Dr. Sion Kim Harris is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Co-Director with Dr. John R. Knight of the Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research (CeASAR), an international research center that strives to be a leading source of innovative, effective strategies to prevent, identify, and treat substance-related problems in children, adolescents, and young adults. Since its inception in 1999, CeASAR has pioneered work in adolescent substance use screening and brief intervention strategies, including the development of the CRAFFT screen which has become the internationally recommended standard for adolescent substance use screening. CeASAR has conducted research in partnership with investigators worldwide including the Czech Republic, Spain, Brazil, and Colombia. CeASAR studies also include evaluation of the effects of adolescent substance use on brain development. Dr. Harris has published nearly 60 original scientific publications, and has received numerous awards, including the Young Professional Award from the Maternal and Child Health Section of the American Public Health Association, and Best Research Award from the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse.

Sharon Levy2013 Levy_Sharon_2 is a board-certified Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She also has a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Levy is the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, where she has evaluated and treated hundreds of adolescents with substance use disorders.

She has published extensively on the outpatient management of substance-use disorders in adolescents, including screening and brief advice in primary care, the use of drug testing and the outpatient management of opioid dependent adolescents. She is the principal investigator of the SAMHSA-funded medical residency SBIRT project at Children’s Hospital Boston and an NIAAA-funded study validating the youth alcohol screening tool in a population of youth with chronic medial illness.

Dr. Levy currently serves as the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse.

Kimber Richter is a Professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Kansas.

Her research is focused on treating tobacco dependence and training health professionals to incorporate tobacco treatment into their clinical practice. She is clinical director of the University of Kansas Hospital’s highly successful tobacco-treatment program, UKanQuit at KUMed. Her research projects — many of which have received funding from the National Institutes of Health — include treating rural smokers and understanding the overlap in tobacco and other drug dependence.

mug-riggsDr. Paula Riggs is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado at Denver. For the last decade, she also has served as director of psychiatric services for adolescents at the university-affiliated Addiction, Research and Treatment Services (ARTS).

Dr. Riggs’ research career has focused on the development and testing of effective pharmacotherapy and behavioral treatment interventions in adolescents with substance use disorders and psychiatric comorbidity. More recently, her research has expanded to multi-site effectiveness trials of combined pharmacotherapy and behavioral interventions conducted in community-based treatment settings.

Dr. Riggs has been the principal investigator on several research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institue on Drug Abuse. They include a recently completed randomized, controlled trial of fluoxetine versus placebo and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in depressed, substance-dependent adolescents. She is currently the principal investigator of a multi-site trial in NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network (CTN): A Randomized Controlled Trial of OROS-MPH for ADHD in Adolescents with Substance Use Disorders.


Howard C. Samuels, is a leading drug and alcohol addiction expert. He is a licensed therapist with a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with years of experience running two successful treatment centers, and is the founder of The Hills Treatment Center.

Dr. Samuels specializes in the treatment of mood and addictive disorders, love addiction and substance abuse intervention. Dr. Samuels has been clean and sober for 29 years from heroin and cocaine addiction.

As the son of a prominent New York state political figure, Howard’s private battle with addiction became public when his drug busts in 1969 and 1971 hit the front pages of the New York Post and New York Daily News, and were covered in Newsweek and Rolling Stone magazine.

As a columnist with The Huffington Post, Howard comments on the epidemic crisis of drugs and alcohol in America. His testifying before the California Senate Public Safety Commission resulted in legislation prohibiting the sale to minors of the dangerous hallucinogenic Salvia.

Howard is widely sought after by network television shows such as ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s The Today Show, CBS, CNN, Entertainment Tonight and many more, as well as syndicated radio programs for his professional and personal experience with recovery.

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of fewer than three dozen physicians in the United States who are board certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry.

He is medical director of one of Colorado’s largest youth substance-abuse-treatment clinics and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction-medicine fellowship program. Dr. Thurstone has completed medical training at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and UCD. In 2010, he completed five years of mentored research training through the National Institute on Drug Abuse/American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry K12 Research Program in Substance Abuse. He is also a past president of the Colorado Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Society.

In June 2012, the United States Congress awarded him another title: U.S. Army Major. He is honored to treat American service members who need mental healthcare as an Army Reserves officer in the Combat Stress Unit of the 807th Medical Command.

Dr. Thurstone is a fluent Spanish speaker and enjoys working with many of his young patients and their families in his second language.

Teens in Colorado and throughout metro Chicago call him Dr. T, the name under which he writes a weekly advice column for The Tribune Co.-owned student newspaper, The Mash.

Dr. T likes to talk tennis. He plays his favorite sport competitively and is ranked among the top 15 players in the United States Tennis Association’s Men’s 40s Division — which helps him connect with the top national athletes he treats as a physician for an NFL team.

When he’s not in the office, you stand a good chance of finding him on a tennis court. You can also find him online at

mug-wellsDr. Kathryn Wells is a board-certified Child Abuse Pediatrician and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado at Denver. She instructs in the area of maternal substance abuse and child maltreatment.

Currently, Dr. Wells serves as medical director of the Denver Health Clinic at the Family Crisis Center and as an attending physician at Denver Health and at the Kempe Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She also is president of the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a leader of the Colorado Court Improvement Project and a member of the board of directors of the Colorado State Foster Parent Association.

Dr. Wells assisted in the formation of the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, where she serves as an advisor to the executive committee. She was also involved in the development of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, where she participates in the Medical/Research Working Group.

Dr. Wells has conducted research on drug issues as they relate to children. Supported by a grant from ACYF’s Children’s Bureau, she developed a model program to better identify and serve substance-exposed newborns and their families. Another grant from HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Healthy Tomorrows Program allowed Dr. Wells to develop a medical home for children in foster care. The result of that effort is the Connections for Kids Clinic at Denver Health — which now provides medical evaluations for 90 percent of the children placed in foster care in the City and County of Denver.

Dr. Wells has received several professional awards. In 2011, she received the James E. Strain Community Service Award from the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for of her outstanding contribution to children’s interests. In 2009, she received the Colorado CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Advocate of the Year Award. In 2007, she received both the inaugural National Collaborative Leadership Award from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare and the Commissioner’s Award from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) branch of HHS.

In her spare time, Dr. Wells enjoys anything related to the outdoors including cycling, hiking, and camping.

UPADHYA-krishna-DTLDr. Krishna Upadhya, MD, MPH is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and holds active board certifications in Adolescent Medicine and General Pediatrics. She received her MD with honors from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Public Health from Boston University. Following medical school she completed her residency and fellowship training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She served on the faculty in Adolescent Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center for two years prior to returning to Johns Hopkins in 2012.

Dr. Upadhya provides comprehensive primary care and subspecialty consultations to adolescents and has particular clinical interests in the areas of general reproductive health, menstrual disorders and teen pregnancy. In addition to providing clinical care, Dr. Upadhya is actively involved in teaching and research. Her research focuses on adolescent reproductive health and prevention of unintended pregnancy. Dr. Upadhya has presented her work at international meetings and has published articles on adolescent health and research in both the lay press and medical literature. She is an active member of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and serves on SAHM Advocacy Committee.