Dr. Charles R. Schuster, an internationally recognized researcher on the psychopharmacology of drugs of abuse, passed away on February 21, 2011 at the age of 81. From 1986-1992 Dr. Schuster served as the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Prior to that Dr. Schuster held academic appointments at the University of Maryland (1959-63), the University of Michigan (1963-68) and the University of Chicago (1968-1986), where he founded a world famous Drug Abuse Research Center. Dr. Schuster was a pioneer in the scientific study of addiction and one of the founders of a specialized research field called behavioral pharmacology, co-authoring the first textbook in this field Dr. Schuster’s research fundamentally changed the way scientists and practitioners thought about addiction, showing that it was not just a failure of will and self-control deserving of punishment. It had the features of many behavioral disorders and the development of dependence followed orderly principles derived from psychology and pharmacology. His work showed that substance abuse was both treatable and preventable, opening the way for a more public health approach to complement the criminal justice approaches that had been the mainstay of the control of drug use in the preceding decades.
Charles R. Schuster was born in 1930 in Woodbury, NJ and grew up in Camden, New Jersey. He was accomplished on the trumpet and playing in jazz clubs as a young man, Dr. Schuster developed an interest in the drug abuse problem that he saw as part of that subculture. He first attended the College of South Jersey in Camden and then obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from Gettysburg College in 1951. He went from there to the University of New Mexico for an M.S. degree. After graduation he joined the Smith Kline and French Laboratories to develop procedures using animal behavior to develop new psychiatric medications. While there, Dr. Joseph V. Brady, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland convinced Dr. Schuster to join his laboratories at Maryland to obtain his PhD. The research that Dr. Schuster began doing as a graduate student opened the door to the development of learning theories of addiction that dominate contemporary thinking about the problem.
After completing his PhD at the University of Maryland in 1962, Dr. Schuster joined the faculty of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan where he stayed for five years (1963-1968) making additional advances in the area of behavioral pharmacology and addiction research. In 1968, Dr. Schuster joined the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. While at the University of Chicago, Dr. Schuster founded and was the Director of the University of Chicago's Drug Abuse Research Center, and Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Behavioral Science. His Chicago years were a period of significant advances in Dr. Schuster’s contributions to drug abuse research. Along with his students and colleagues, Dr. Schuster led in the development of human behavioral pharmacology research. It was in Chicago that Dr. Schuster also began to make important contributions to drug abuse treatment research and in the development of medications for addiction treatment. While at Chicago, Dr. Schuster married his colleague Dr, Chris-Ellyn Johanson.
Because of Dr. Schuster’s important contributions to basic addiction research and his ability to translate science into practice, he was an excellent match for his next major professional challenge, serving as the Director of NIDA. During the time that Dr. Schuster served as the Director of NIDA he appeared annually before the House and Senate Appropriations and Authorizations Committees to explain and justify the Institute’s research plans and budgetary requests. He was also often called upon to testify at congressional hearings on specific drug abuse problems in numerous special capacities.
In January 1992 Dr. Schuster returned to his research career as a Senior Research Scientist at the Addiction Research Center of the NIDA. In January of 1995 Drs. Schuster and Johanson were appointed as Professors in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Director of the Clinical Research Division on Substance Abuse. At Wayne State he has awarded the title of Distinguished Professor. From October 2006 to 2008 Dr. Schuster served as the Director of the Neuroscience Institute at Loyola University, Chicago and up until his recent death, Dr. Schuster directed CRS Associates LLC, a company specializing in Post Marketing Surveillance and the design and implementation of Risk Management Strategies for new medications with abuse potential.
Dr. Schuster has mentored young scientists including 15 doctoral students, 9 post-doctoral fellows and many visiting scientists from around the world, as well as junior faculty members at the academic institutions where he had faculty appointments.
Dr. Schuster has authored or co-authored over 200 scientific journal articles, as well as numerous book chapters and several books. He has served on the Food and Drug Administration Drug Abuse Advisory Committee and is also a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence of the World Health Organization. He was instrumental in the implementation of medical aspects of the international drug abuse control treaties.
Dr. Schuster has been active in numerous professional organizations and has been the recipient of many national and international awards. Among the awards are the Nathan B. Eddy and Mentorship Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, the Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology from the American Psychological Association and the Peter B. Dews Award from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. In 1990 he was made a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science. The Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse created the annual Brady-Schuster Award in honor of the work of Drs. Brady and Schuster. Dr. Schuster was recently honored by a named lectureship series in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, where he gave the inaugural presentation in October, 2010. At the time of his death, Dr. Schuster was involved with many professional activities, and he remained at the center of policy and scientific discussions.
Personally, Bob Schuster touched the lives of a great many people: his students, colleagues, extended family and many friends. He had special, personal relationships with each of these people, and cared deeply about their welfare and wellbeing. He had a ready sense of humor, and could laugh equally at himself and at the many ironies of life. He had a deep social conscience, and took every opportunity to act, and entreat others to act, on social and political issues of importance to him. This caring also applied to the victims of the devastating disorder he studied throughout his life, drug abuse. He loved jazz and played his trumpet with soulful and beautiful musicality. He will be forever be in the hearts and minds of those who knew him.
Dr. Schuster is survived by his wife and colleague Dr. Chris-Ellyn Johanson and four children, Lyzbett, Rebecca, Robert and Alyson. Lyzbett is married to Robert Long and they have two children, Ian and Rachel. Rebecca is married to George Shybut and they have four children, Theo, Alexandrea, Christopher and Alexander. Robert has a son Evan. He is also survived by his sister Bette, her four children, and six grandchildren. He was a man of many talents, a loving husband and father and a great friend.
Resting at Michael Coletta Sons Funeral Home, 544 W. 31st Street, Chicago, IL, where friends may call from 4 to 9 p.m. Funeral Service Saturday, March 5th, 2 p.m., at Bond Chapel, University of Chicago, 1050 East 59th Street, Chicago. Arrangements by Lane-Moynihan Funeral Directors. Information, 312-944-6060.
To send flowers to the family of Charles Schuster, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.