May 4, 2011

Memorial planned for G. Alan Marlatt, UW psychology professor and addiction expert

A memorial service for G. Alan Marlatt, a UW psychology professor, will be held Sunday, May 15, at 1 p.m. at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture.

The service is open to the public and attendees are asked to RSVP to seemac@uw.edu.

Alan Marlatt

Alan Marlatt

Marlatt, who was director of the UWs Addictive Behaviors Research Center, died March 14 from complications with melanoma. He was 69. He was known around the world as a compassionate advocate for a more humane approach to addiction treatments.

Marlatt joined the UW faculty in 1972 and his Behavioral Alcohol Research Lab (BARLAB) – a combination of a bar and a research lab – gained fame on campus in the 1980s.  “BARLAB served not only clever research functions, but it also has become an integral part of our department,” said Sheri Mizumori, chair of the UW psychology department.

Marlatt believed that addicts should be met “where they are” instead of being required to commit to abstinence before treatment. For instance, Marlatt supported the 2005 opening of Seattles 1811 Eastlake apartment building, which allows homeless alcoholics to drink in their rooms. A 2009 study found that the controversial building saved taxpayers $4 million each year, because residents did not use costly emergency services such as hospitals and jails. The study also found that residents, even though they were not required to do so, drank less.

“He was a visionary and a luminary. He generated ideas that were ahead of their time in so many different ways,” Dennis Donovan, director of UWs Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and one of Marlatts former graduate students, told the Seattle Times.

Marlatts studies also revealed factors that could predict drug relapse.

“Alan found that these high-risk situations can be planned for, and that by being taught appropriate coping responses the person can learn to avoid relapse,” Mary Larimer, associate director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center and Marlatts longtime colleague, told the New York Times. “Prior to Alans work there was a perception that relapse was an inevitable part of the disease of addiction, primarily triggered by biological processes,” she said.

Mizumori said that the department will miss Marlatts tireless and passionate work as a researcher and mentor. “We will also miss his undaunted vision regarding numerous departmental issues, and the way his smile and matter-of-factness made anything seem possible.”

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