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Epilogue | Dr. Patrick Hughes

Dr. Patrick Hughes: Handsome adventurer helped revolutionize treatment of addiction

ST. PETE BEACH — His siblings called him James Bond. For much of his life, Dr. Patrick Hughes seemed to prove them right.

He was handsome and athletic. He had hobnobbed with the Black Panthers, weaved his way through opium dens in Burma, Thailand and Indonesia, and lived for years on a sailboat after which he sailed across the Atlantic.

Unlike 007, Dr. Hughes wore khakis to work, drove a minivan and rarely drank anything more expensive than a glass of sangria. He traded in the freewheeling lifestyle of the 1960s and 1970s for a house in Pass-a-Grille and a job with the Veterans Administration, which he held for 20 years. He read medical journals for fun and insisted on doing his own maintenance and mechanical work. And all along, helping drug addicts recover was all the drama he ever needed.

Dr. Hughes, an early contributor to removing the stigma from addiction, died March 27 of a rare brain disorder. He was 75 and had lived in Port Charlotte for several years.

"He was very adventurous, and he was definitely a James Bond because he was so gorgeous," said sister Rosemary Slate, 74. "The women loved him."

Though his address seldom stayed the same in the 1970s throughout Europe and Asia, Dr. Hughes was not globe-trotting, but gathering data as a senior medical officer for the World Health Organization's addiction program.

His 1978 book, Behind the Wall of Respect: Community Experiments in Heroin Addiction Control, offered a hard-won glimpse into Chicago's shooting galleries. He gained access through the Black Panthers, who watched his back. He tried to reverse the social contagion of heroin use by recruiting "ex-addicts who began to trust that we were professionals who would learn from them, not inform on them," Dr. Hughes told People magazine in 1978.

Dr. Hughes was born in Latrobe, Pa., the son of an Irish immigrant. He entered the University of Pittsburgh on a tennis scholarship and stayed through medical school. He also earned a master's degree in public health from Columbia University.

After getting conned by addicts in a Texas prison, he concluded that "what the heroin addict does in a therapist's office is not as important as what he does when he returns to his environment."

Dr. Hughes worked for the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa from 1981 to 2001, when he retired. He was married briefly. During a walk on the beach with his daughter, he talked about his formerly glamorous lifestyle. "He had led this fantasy life," said Kristina Hughes, 37. "He said that people who settled down and had a normal life and a family and all that stuff, those are the people who had it all figured out."

>>Biography

Dr. Patrick Hughes

Born: May 28, 1934.

Died: March 27, 2010.

Survivors: Daughter Kristina Hughes; brothers Richard Hughes and Kevin Hughes and his wife Regina; and sisters Rosemary Slate and her husband John, and Kathy Molina and her husband, Marty.

Dr. Patrick Hughes: Handsome adventurer helped revolutionize treatment of addiction 04/12/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 12, 2010 7:37pm]
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