Alan Marlatt Died

Devastating news…

Many people claim to be pioneers in addiction treatment, but few have left a more important legacy than G. Alan Marlatt, professor of psychology at University of Washington, who died of melanoma on March 14, at age 69.

Marlatt, who was also the director of the university’s Addictive Behaviors Research Center, was one of the first researchers to understand the importance of relapse in addiction treatment — and, more importantly, to develop and systematically test ways to help prevent an addict’s momentary slip from becoming a full-blown relapse. Marlatt recognized that enforcing immediate abstinence often deters substance users from getting or adhering to treatment, and he advanced therapeutic approaches that focus on reducing alcohol- or other drug-related harm, without demanding strict abstinence.

Throughout his life, Marlatt labored to bring empathy and compassion into a field that had historically advocated harsh and coercive techniques that were not effective.

  • One of Marlatt’s most important theories “the abstinence violation effect” speaks directly to the danger of slogans like “only an arm’s length away”, and the allergy form of the disease concept.

  • I’m so glad we had him here.

  • hulahoop

    One of the most common mistakes addicts make is focusing on whether they are strong enough to change rather than on specific methods of coping. “It’s like trying to ride a bike,” says Marlatt. “You make mistakes and learn, and you don’t give up if you don’t immediately find your balance.” If the bicycle is missing a wheel or is otherwise broken, then it requires fixing — simply willing it to work is not going to help you ride.

    Also, says Marlatt, “most people think that if they have urges or cravings, there’s something wrong, that you’re not supposed to have them.” In fact, they are a normal part of habitual behavior. “Notice and accept them.”

    Rest in peace Mr. Marlatt. You left a legacy to be proud of. Hopefully others will take up your cause.

  • eddy

    this is very sad, he left a legacy , unlike Drew Pinsky, he was a real pioneer in his field he will be missed greatly

  • JD
  • Martha

    you’re the biggest liar that was ever created,
    you and pinocchio are probably related
    your superstitious program is clearly over rated
    the methods you use are totally outdated
    your religion involves being switched and baited
    sobriety and God are unrelated
    so many of the members are court mandated
    In hope they can be sedated
    your ego’s super inflated
    your what happened when a snake and rat mated

  • Eddie Spaghetti


    “Walking into your first AA meeting is the scariest thing you’ll ever do in your whole life.”

    Wow, talk about hyperbole. It is true I dreaded going to AA when I went, but it was not about fear. It was more about not wanting to be bored for an hour and a half. I understand why people would be scared/intimidated, but one of the scariest thing you will ever do? Really?


  • Lucy

    AA’s narrative is that drinking is a sin caused by a sinful nature, and the drinker can only be redeemed by taking the steps and working tirelessly with others. When a member feels emotional pain, anger, etc. AA tells him to see his discomfort as punishment for his nature and exhorts him to “stop thinking about himself.” The critical voice becomes so engrained that members forget that they are free to go, and stay out of the fear that leaving will make them feel more sinful.

    AA sometimes shows the compassion that Dr. Marlatt preached but it comes with a barb. When a drinker drinks again, he is welcomed back to AA but told that he was just doing what all alcoholics are destined to do. He is then pummelled into admitting that he was powerless when he drank, and will be powerless forever. It isn’t encouragement at all. It’s threatening.

  • MArtha, I just wanted to let you know, you totally crack me up.

    I have never heard of the above man. Did he ever post on here, or ddi ftg/MA ever communicate with him?

  • MikeAugustine

    “Walking into your first AA meeting is the scariest thing you’ll ever do in your whole life.”

    Especially if one could see the rap sheets of those in attendance.

  • could it be said that harm reduction and the embracement of its ideology is a form of “treatment” iteself?

  • causeandeffect

    It’s very sad about Alan Marlatt’s death. He sounds like a wonderful man. It’s not easy to forge new pathways in treating addiction when most are stuck firmly in quackery from decades ago.

    Thanks for the wonderful link, JD. This article says they are going to treat addiction in a preventative way instead of forcing people to hit rock bottom (crisis intervention). It says patients (not gawd) are responsible for their own treatment. Canada has national health care and since the Govt will be paying, they won’t want to waste their money. Once these doctors realize that AA is ineffective, hopefully they will start treating alcohol dependence with Naltrexone and the Sinclair Method and people will eventually be able to steer way clear of AA. I really don’t care if they want to call it a disease, as long as people are getting something better than quack faith healing which is exactly what will happen eventually.

  • Stanton Peele just posted a tribute to Marlatt, which offers some more insight into his contribution.

    Violet, we didn’t know him, just of him. I was confusing — I meant I’m glad we had him with us here on earth.