Faculty Profile: George Kenna, PhD RPh

George Kenna
George Kenna, PhD RPh
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior (Research)
Bio Med Alcohol & Addiction; Psychiatry & Human Behavior
Work: +1 401-456-4910
George Kenna conducts clinical as well as laboratory research on the causes of and treatments for alcohol dependence. He is particularly interested in how drugs work to reduce craving for alcohol. He is also interested in assessing and balancing the need for opioids for pain with that of addiction.


George A. Kenna is a pharmacist and Assistant Professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. His interests include examining the mechanisms of action and use of medications such as aripiprazole, topiramate, ondansetron and sertraline for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Recent interest includes prescription opioid abuse and risk management. Previous work includes research on the prevalence of substance use and abuse by healthcare professionals.

Research Description

George A. Kenna PhD RPh is the Principal Investigator of an R01 grant that seeks to match and mismatch serotonergic genetic polymorphisms to serotonergic medications for alcohol dependence from NIAAA. He is also Co-Investigator and Project Director on a NIAAA supported grant written with Robert Swift MD PhD (PI) examining the mechanism of action and use of Aripiprazole and Topiramate on Alcohol Use. He is also Project Director and Co-I on an NIAAA contract (Robert Swift PI) comparing the safety and efficacy of sustained release Quetiapine for the treatment of severe alcohol dependence.

Grants and Awards

2003: Finalist, The Peter F. Merenda Prize for Statistics and Research Methodology.
2004: Research Society on Alcoholism Junior Investigator Award, Vancouver CA.
2004-2007: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award
2006-2010: Who's Who in America.
2006: Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare.
2006: Travel Award to The 6th Annual Guze Symposium on Alcoholism Award, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Dept Psychiatry, St. Louis, MO.
2006: Research Society on Alcoholism Junior Investigator Award, Baltimore, MD.
2006: Advanced Pharmacy Practice Preceptor of the Year, College of Pharmacy, University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI.
2007: Early Career Investigator Award to the 69th Annual Scientific Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, June 19, 2007, Quebec, CA.
2008: Travel Award to the XVIth World Congress on Psychiatric Genetics, Osaka Japan
2012: NIAAA Travel Award to the 16th International Society Biomedical Research Assn Congress, Sapporo, Japan Sept 8-12, 2012.
2012: Rhode Island Pharmacists Association: First Awardee of the Cardinal Health Generation Rx Champions Award Recognizing Excellence in Community Based Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. Sept 27, 2012.


American Pharmacists Association (APhA)
Rhode Island Association of Health-System Pharmacists (RIHSP)
Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA)
International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ISBRA)
American Pharmacists Association - APPM Addiction Practitioner Interest Group
College of Neurologic and Psychiatric Pharmacists (CPNP)

Funded Research

(1). R01-AA016079 (Kenna) 9/1/07-8/31/11 4.8 Calendar
NIAAA $1,499,082
Matching 5-HT Genotypes to Serotonergic Medications in Alcoholics.
We propose to randomize non-treatment-seeking alcohol dependent persons based on their 5'-HTTLPR variant genotype (LL or SS/SL) into one of two counterbalanced arms: participants in the first arm (LL) will first receive one drug (either 200mg/day of sertraline or ondansetron 0.5mg/day) for three weeks followed by an alcohol self-administration experiment. Role: Principal Investigator
(2). CS-1027 (Swift) 7/1/07- 3/31/09 2.4 Calendar
NIAAA $826,477
Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial to Compare the Safety and Efficacy of Quetiapine Extended Release versus Placebo for the Treatment of Severe Alcohol Dependence. The major goal of this study is to compare the safety and efficacy of quetiapine to placebo for the treatment of severe alcohol dependence. Role: Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director

(3). R01 AA015753 (Swift) 7/1/07- 6/30/11 4.8 Calendar
NIAAA $1,611,415
Aripiprazole and Topiramate on Free-Choice Alcohol Use.
The primary aim of this research is to determine if the combination of aripiprazole and topiramate is more effective than either drug alone in reducing alcohol use in non-treatment seeking alcohol-dependent subjects in an alcohol self-administration experiment. Role: Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director


(1) 6/30/03-6/29/04 R01-U10AA11777 (Swift ) 12.0 Calendar
NIAAA $1,400,000
Combining Medications and Behavioral Interventions (COMBINE).
COMBINE was the first national study to evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral treatments alone and in combination with naltrexone and acamprosate. Role: Research Fellow

(2). 2004-2006 Research Excellence Award "Pilot Study for the Safety and Tolerability of Aripiprazole and Topiramate with Alcohol," Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Providence RI, Role: PI $10,000

(3). 2006 Educational Grant "Toward a Better Understanding of Substance Abuse by Pharmacy Students and Pharmacists," Health Professions Students for Substance Abuse Training Role: PI $500

(4). 2006 Unrestricted Educational Grant. Cephalon Inc. "Toward a Better Understanding of Substance Abuse by Pharmacy Students and Pharmacists." To the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy. Role: PI $1,500
(5). 2003-2004 NIAAA Grant AA02004 Ondansetron and Naltrexone: Cue Reactivity and Drinking; Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Providence, R.I., PI, Damaris Rohsenow, PhD. Role: Research Pharmacist Consultant

(6). 2004-2006 NIAAA Grant AA11777: Combining Medications and Behavioral Interventions (COMBINE); Long-term Follow-up; Roger Williams Medical Center, Providence, R.I., PI, Robert M. Swift. Role: Research Fellow

(7). 5T32AA007459-18 (Monti) 6/30/04-6/29/07 12.0 Calendar
NIAAA $43,428
Alcohol Intervention/Treatment Outcome Research Training NIAAA Postdoctoral Training Fellowship (National Research Service Award-Institutional)

Teaching Experience

Multivariate, Univariate Statistics and Biopsychology

Selected Publications

  • Fenton, M., Leggio, L., Kenna, G.A., Swift, R.M. HIV and binge drinking: a survey analysis. Substance Use and Misuse-in press. (IN PRESS)
  • Kenna, G.A., Lomastro, T.L., Schiesl, A., Leggio, L. & Swift, R.M. Topiramate, an Anticonvulsant for Alcohol Dependence Treatment. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2009; 2 (2): 135-142. (2009)
  • Leggio, LL., Ray, LA., Kenna, G.A., Swift, RM.. Blood Glucose Level, Alcohol Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Craving. Results from the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol Dependence (COMBINE) Study, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2009 May 26. (2009)
  • Kenna, G.A., McGeary, J., Zywiak, W. McGeary, C., Wang, S., Grenga, A., Leggio, L, Swift, R.M. A Within-Group Design of Non-Treatment Seeking 5-HTTLPR Genotyped Alcohol Dependent Subjects Receiving Ondansetron and Sertraline.Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2009; 33 (2): 1-9. (2009)
  • Dolan, SL, Justus, A, LaChance,HR, MacKillop,J, MacPherson, L, McGeary, J, Kenna, G., Meehan, J., Metrik, J., Murphy, J. McDevitt-Murphy MD.; Pedlow CT. Spirito, A. Alcohol Education Inventory – Revised: What Every Mental Health Professional Should Know About Alcohol. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 2009;37 (1):41-53. (2009)
  • Kenna, G.A. Leggio, L, Swift, R.M. A Safety and Tolerability Laboratory Study of the Combination of Aripiprazole and Topiramate in Volunteers who Drink Alcohol. Human Neuropsychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, -2009; 24:465-472 Jun 23. (2009)
  • Leggio, L., Kenna, G.A, Fenton, M.,Bonnenfant, E.,Swift, R.M., Typologies of Alcohol Dependence: From Jellinek to Genetics and Beyond. Neuropsychology Review, 2009; 19: 115-129. (2009)
  • Leggio, L., Kenna, G.A., Swift, RM. New developments for the pharmacological treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. A focus on non-benzodiazepine GABAergic medications, Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008; 32:1106-1117. (2008)
  • Hanley, M. & Kenna, G.A. Quetiapine: treatment for substance abuse and drug of abuse. Am J Health Syst Pharm, 2008 Apr 1;65(7):611-8. (2008)
  • L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, N. Malandrino, A. Mirijello, C. D'Angelo, L. Vonghia, A. Miceli, E. Capristo, G.A. Kenna, G. Gasbarrini, RM. Swift, G. Addolorato. Relationship between the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis and alcohol craving in alcohol-dependent patients. A longitudinal study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2008; 32(12): 2047-2053. (2008)
  • Leggio L.,Ferrulli, A., Cardone, S., Miceli, A., Kenna, G.A., Gasbarrini, G., Swift, R.M., & Addolorato, G. Renin and aldosterone but not the natriuretic peptide correlate with obsessive craving in medium-term abstinent alcoholic patients: a longitudinal study. Alcohol, 2008; 42:375-381. (2008)
  • Kenna, G.A. & Lewis, D.C. Risk Factors for Alcohol and Other Drug Use by Healthcare Professionals. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, 2008; 3 (3):1-8. (2008)
  • Kenna, G.A. & Wood, M.D. In Search of Pharmacological Optimism: Investigating Beliefs about Effects of Drugs: A Pilot Study. Addiction Research and Theory, 2008; 16, (4): 383-399. (2008)
  • Zemrak, W. & Kenna, G.A. The Impact of Psychoactive Medication Therapy on QT Interval Prolongation, American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 2008. May 15;65(11):1029-38. (2008)
  • Kenna, G.A., Nielsen, D., Mello, P., Schiesl, A., Swift, R.M. Pharmacotherapy of Dual Substance Abuse and Dependence. CNS Drugs, 2007; 21(3):213-237 (2007)
  • Forcehimes, A., Tonigan, J. S., Miller, W. Kenna, G.A. & Baer, J., Psychometrics of the Drinker Inventory of Consequences (DrInC). Addictive Behaviors, 2007; (32): 1699-1704. (2007)
  • Kenna, G.A., Erickson, C., Tommasello, A. Understanding Substance Use and Abuse by the Pharmacy Profession. U.S. Pharmacist, 2006; 31(5):HS21-33. (2006)
  • Halilovic, J., Kenna, G.A., Overview of Immunosuppressants Used in Solid Organ Transplantation. U.S. Pharmacist, 2006; 31(12):HS8-30. (2006)
  • Kenna, G.A. Pharmacotherapy of Alcohol Dependence: Targeting a Complex Disorder. Drug Discovery Today: Therapeutic Strategies, July 2005; 2 (1):71-78. (2005)
  • Kenna, G.A. & Wood, M.D. Family history of alcohol and drug use in healthcare professionals. Journal of Substance Use, 2005; 10 (4): 225-238. (2005)
  • Kenna, GA, Longabaugh R, Karolczuk K, Woolard R, Nirenberg T, Minugh A, Carty K, Becker B, Gogineni A, Clifford P. Can the short index of problems (SIP) be Improved? Validity and Reliability of the Three-Month SIP in an Emergency Department Sample. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2005 May; 66 (3):433-438. (2005)
  • Kenna, G.A. & Wood, M.D. The Prevalence of alcohol, cigarette and illicit drug use and problems among dentists. Journal of the American Dental Association. July 2005; 136: 1023-1032. (2005)
  • Guirguis, A.B. & Kenna, G.A. Treatment Considerations for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, U.S. Pharmacist, 2005; 30(6):71-80. (2005)
  • Kenna, G.A., McGeary, J.E., & Swift, R.M. Pharmacotherapy, pharmacogenomics and the future of alcohol dependence therapy. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 2004, Nov 15; 61(22) Part 2:2380-2390. (2004)
  • Kenna, G.A., McGeary, J.E., & Swift, R.M. Pharmacotherapy, pharmacogenomics and the future of alcohol dependence therapy. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 2004, Nov 1; 61(21) Part 1:2272-2279. (2004)
  • Kenna, G.A.& Swift R.M. Pharmacotherapies for alcohol dependence. U.S. Pharmacist, 2004; 29(2): 93-101. (2004)
  • Kenna, G.A. & Wood, M.D. Substance use by pharmacists and other health professionals. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. 2004 Nov/Dec; 44(6): 684 - 693. (2004)
  • Kenna, G.A. & Wood, M.D. Alcohol use by healthcare professionals. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2004 Jul 15; 75(1):107-16. (2004)
  • Kenna, G.A. & Wood, M.D. Substance use by pharmacy and nursing practitioners and students in a northeastern state. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2004 May 15; 61(9): 921-30. (2004)
  • Kenna, G.A. Rationale for use of aripiprazole for alcohol dependence treatment. Drugs of the Future, 2003; 28(12): 1227-35. (2003)