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Professor Griffith Edwards, CBE

Posted on 12/10/2012

The Institute of Psychiatry regrets to announce the recent death of Professor Griffith Edwards, CBE, Emeritus Professor of Addiction Behaviour, Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King's College London. 

Professor Edwards was one of the most significant figures in addiction research of the last half-century. 

After starting at the IoP in 1962, as a trainee psychiatrist and research worker, he formally retired in 1994 but continued to be highly active from his office in the National Addiction Centre (NAC).

 In 1967 he founded the NAC, then known as the Addiction Research Unit (ARU). As its director and the first Professor of Addiction Behaviour in the UK, Professor Edwards’ contributions to the field of addiction study was substantial, reshaping our understanding and treatment of alcohol and drug dependence. 

A prolific author and dedicated research pioneer, Griffith Edwards produced 40 books, 192 scientific papers and was the editor of the Society for the Study of  Addiction’s journal – ‘Addiction’, the leading international journal in the field  from 1978 until his passing. 

Professor Edwards was an extraordinarily intuitive clinician, an inspirational teacher, mentor and a world renowned addictions specialist who leaves behind a truly lasting legacy and will missed by all who knew him and the many more who were touched by his work.

The Early Years

James Griffith Edwards was born in India on October 3 1928, the younger of two sons returning to England in 1929. Initially Griffith did not follow the family tradition of veterinary medicine (his father was a distinguished veterinary bacteriologist), opting for mathematics, after winning a scholarship to Oxford in 1947. He subsequently switched to medicine, graduating from Balliol College in 1951 with a degree in animal physiology. 

Griffith went on to add a Master’s and Medical Degree and on completion of his clinical studies at St Bartholomew's in 1955 moved permanently to the Institute of Psychiatry as a trainee psychiatrist and research worker in 1962, where he fell under the influence of the Dean  D. L. Davies who encouraged his early interest in alcoholism. 

Professional Appointments

1962-1966 | Research Worker, Institute of Psychiatry

1966-1967 | Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry

1967-1973 | Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry

1967-1994 | Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals (Emeritus from 1994)

1973-1979 | Reader in Drug Dependence, Institute of Psychiatry

1979-1994 | Professor of Addiction Behaviour, Institute of Psychiatry (Emeritus from 1994)

1967-1994 | Director, Addiction Research Unit, Institute of Psychiatry

1991-1994 | Chairman, National Addiction Centre

Professional Influence | Committees and Consultancies

From early on in his career Professor Edwards advised governments, international bodies and held membership to several expert committees. 

Notably he:

  • Contributed centrally to the World Health Organisation's alcohol programme on alcoholism and drug dependence in 1968, with revisions in 1976; 
  • Contributed to the drafting of the addictions sections of ICD-10 and DSM-IV; 
  • Member, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges group making submissions on cannabis to the House of Lords in 1998; 
  • Consultant, President’s Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, Washington; 
  • Consultant, Ministry of Health – Bolivia and Mexico; 
  • Member, Cabinet Office group concerned with design of national UK alcohol policy, 2003 

For a full list of Professor Edward’s Membership of Committees, Professional Consultancies and Work for WHO, please see here.

Honours and Academic Awards

1971 | Edwin Stevens Lecturer and Gold Medallist, Royal Society of Medicine

1981 | Jellinek Memorial Prize (international alcohol research award)

1986 | Evian Health Prize

1987 | Commander of the British Empire (C.B.E.), awarded for services to social science and medicine

1990 | Annual Award of AMERSA (American Educational and Research Society on Alcohol)

1992 | Honorary Professorship in Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile (life tenure)

1996 | Nathan B Eddy Gold Medal (international drug misuse research award)

1998 | Auguste Forrell Prize (European alcohol research award)

1998 | Hon F.R.C.Psych. 

2004 | Distinguished Fellow: Society for the Study of Addiction

2011 | Honorary Emeritus Fellow, International Drug Abuse Research Society

2011 | European Federation of Therapeutic Communities Award

2012  I Max Glatt Medal of the Medical Council on Alcohol

Publications | Books and Scientific Papers

Although Professor Griffith Edwards produced nearly 200 scientific papers and over 40 books, he was particularly proud of two texts written for a general audience:

  • Alcohol the Ambiguous Molecule.  London, Penguin Books, 2000. Published 2002 in US by Thomas Dunne Books as Alcohol, the World’s Favourite Drug.  
  • Matters of Substance: drugs and why we use them.  London, Penguin Books, 2004. 

To see a full list of his publications please see here.

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