Dr. Griffith Edwards, a pioneer in addiction medicine and a close friend of Phoenix House, died on Sept. 13 at the age of 83. According to the New York Times, Dr. Edwards changed the way psychiatrists, government agencies, and policymakers viewed addiction and the science of addiction medicine. His work helped shape the understanding of alcoholism as a disease instead of a moral failing. He directed the addiction research unit for the Institute of Psychiatry at Maudsley Hospital and helped to found England’s National Addiction Centre (similar to our National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Dr. Edwards came to know Phoenix House founder Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, M.D., when Dr. Edwards visited Dr. Rosenthal’s first treatment community at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Oakland, CA. Dr. Edwards then followed Dr. Rosenthal’s earliest efforts with Phoenix House in New York and sent staff workers to study with Phoenix House for more than a year. When the staff returned to London, they founded the United Kingdom’s first Phoenix House, with four additional Phoenix Houses opening in the United Kingdom over the next four years. Ten years ago, Prince Charles chose to take his sons to Phoenix House to help them understand the problems of substance abuse.
The success of the Phoenix House experiment in London was critical to the growth of Phoenix House throughout the U.S. Dr. Rosenthal says of Dr. Edwards, “Griff was a brilliant, ever inquisitive and wonderful friend. I will miss him.”