Sandra Comer, PhD
Professor of Neurobiology (in Psychiatry) at CUMC
Dr. Sandra Comer is a Professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and a Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Comer received her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University (1987), and completed her graduate training at the University of Michigan, where she received her Master of Science (1988) and Doctorate in Philosophy (1992) degrees for her research on the effects of opioid drugs in the laboratory of Dr. James H. Woods. Following graduate school, Dr. Comer completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. There she received training in preclinical models of cocaine self-administration in rodents and non-human primates in the laboratory of Dr. Marilyn Carroll. I
n 1993, Dr. Comer began working in the Division on Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Here she received training in clinical studies under the mentorship of Drs. Marian Fischman and Richard Foltin. Dr. Comer's research focus has been on the development and testing of novel approaches to the treatment of opioid dependence, and the relationship between pain and opioid abuse. Dr. Comer has served as a regular member of various grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health, and was a voting member of the Institutional Review Board of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Medicine.
Dr. Comer is the author or co-author of more than 120 papers, chapters, and books dealing with several aspects of substance abuse. She currently is President of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, the longest-standing organization in the U.S. addressing substance use disorders.
Dr. Comer's research focuses on the testing of novel compounds for the treatment of opioid dependence. In addition, she is currently studying the complex relationship between pain and opioid abuse.
For the past two decades, Dr. Comer has been investigating novel medications for the treatment of opioid dependence. She developed a unique laboratory model of drug self-administration in human research volunteers in order to study the ability of potential treatment medications to reduce drug taking behavior. Thus far, she has examined both agonist (buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone) and antagonist opioid medications (depot naltrexone), as well as glutamate antagonists (memantine, dextromethorphan). Currently, she is studying glial cell modulators (pioglitazone, ibudilast, minocycline) as potential treatment medications. In addition to her search for medications that may be useful for treating opioid dependence, Dr. Comer is currently studying the complex relationship between chronic pain and opioid abuse. More recently, Dr. Comer has begun to evaluate the effects of methamphetamine on the blood-brain barrier in humans using a novel MRI technique.