Biography of Wilson Compton, MD, MPE

Dr. Wilson Compton
Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E.
Deputy Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr. Wilson M. Compton serves as the Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health.  NIDA is the world’s largest funder of research on health aspects of drug use and addiction, including research related to preventing drug use, treating addiction and addressing the serious health consequences of drug use, such as substance-related HIV/AIDS. In his current role, Dr. Compton’s responsibilities include working with the Director to provide scientific leadership in the development, implementation, and management of NIDA’s research portfolio in order to improve the prevention and treatment of drug use and addiction.

Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Compton served as the Director of NIDA’s Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research from 2002 until 2013. In this leadership role, he oversaw the scientific direction of a complex public health research program of national and international scope addressing: 1) the extent and spread of drug use, 2) how to prevent drug use, and 3) how to implement drug use prevention and treatment services as effectively as possible.  He has led the development of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study (PATH), a large scale longitudinal population study with 45,971 baseline participants ages 12 and older. Jointly sponsored by NIDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PATH includes prospective data collection using both surveys and biological assessments to inform the development of tobacco regulations in the United States.

Before joining NIDA, Dr. Compton was a tenured faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Master in Psychiatric Epidemiology Program at Washington University in Saint Louis, as well as Medical Director of Addiction Services at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Saint Louis.  Dr. Compton received his undergraduate education from Amherst College. He attended medical school and completed his residency training in psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis.

During his career, Dr. Compton has achieved multiple scientific accomplishments: he was a member of the DSM-5 Revision Task Force and vice-chair for the DSM-5-Text Revision; is the author of more than 250 publications including widely-cited papers drawing attention to the opioid crisis in the U.S.; and is an invited speaker at high-impact venues, including multiple presentations to federal judges sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center.  These judicial presentations have focused on how the science of addiction may improve policy and practices related to persons with addiction within the criminal justice system. Dr. Compton is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Alpha Omega Alpha medical education honor society. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Senior Scholar Health Services Research Award from the American Psychiatric Association in 2008 and the Paul Hoch Award from the American Psychopathological Association in 2010. The FDA selected him to receive the Leveraging Collaboration Award in both 2012 and 2013 as well as a cross-cutting award in 2017. In 2018, Dr. Compton received the James W. West award from the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. He also received the Health and Human Services Secretary’s Awards for Meritorious Service in 2013 and Distinguished Service in 2015, 2018 and 2019. In 2022 Dr. Compton was selected to become a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Most recently in 2024, Dr. Compton received the Health and Human Services Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award for his work on the CMS-NIH-CDC-SAMHSA Opioid Policy Data Team.

View a full list of Dr. Wilson Compton’s published papers on