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Dr. Jokichi Takamine III, 1924-2013

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Dr. Jokichi Takamine III, 1924-2013

Takamine Photo.jpgDr. Jokichi  (“Joe”) Takamine III  died December 18, 2013 in Santa Monica, California.  He was 89.  Dr. Takamine was widely recognized as the “godfather” of addiction medicine in Los Angeles. A “normie” (not an alcoholic or addict) he was nationally renowned for his lifetime of work and devotion in the field of alcoholism and drug dependency.

“Joe was a dear friend and esteemed doctor who helped many recover from the disease of addiction,” said Dr. David Smith, past president of both CSAM and ASAM.  “We worked together in California in the early days of the development of the field of Addiction Medicine.   Joe was a true pioneer of addiction medicine which is now a national board certified specialty. We will forever be indebted to him.”

I was introduced to Dr. Takamine in 2008, soon after Malibu Beach Recovery Center opened.  We were, still are, one of the few treatment centers in the United States based on neuroscience. Dr. Takamine liked that and said it made him willing to cross the border between West Los Angeles and Malibu to visit us.  Although we were not a non profit, he went on to become an informal adviser until several years ago when he closed his practice.   

We met Dr. Takamine through his close friend Don Penny, Deputy Director for White House Communications during the Ford Presidency.  Don’s daughter Lisa then worked for us.  She was Dr. Takamine’s goddaughter.

“I have known many successful people, but not so many important ones,” said Don Penny.  “Joe was one of the latter.”

Dr. Takamine was a graduate of Williams College and New York University Medical School.  He served his residency in internal medicine at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital and at Wadsworth V.A. Hospital in Los Angeles.   During World War II he was in the army, landing on Omaha Beach two weeks after the invasion.

A private practice physician since 1957 and staff member of St. John’s Hospital and Medical Center, Dr. Takamine and two colleagues founded the St. John’s Chemical Dependency Center in 1974 which, according to Don Penny, was the first chemical dependency center in Los Angeles and possibly California.

He served in many leadership and faculty roles, both in California and Washington D.C.  He was Medical Director of several not for profit chemical dependency programs in and around Los Angeles, including Phoenix House, and was a faculty member of UCLA, the U.S. Naval Hospital, and UCLA Research Center).  He served four presidents and was a member of the American Medical Association’s Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Dr. Kenneth Blum, PhD, Malibu Beach Recovery Center’s advisor on neuroscience, knew him well.  “He was indeed the father of Addiction Medicine,” said Dr. Blum.  “David Smith and I were on a number of panels together with Joe and he was always interested in drug mechanisms.  He always discussed drug abuse as a brain related disorder as well.  Besides being very knowledgeable he was a very kind human being with great passion. It is a shame to loose such a profoundly important person in the field.”

Added Dr. Mark Gold, MD, Chairman of the University of Florida’s Department of Psychiatry: 
“He was a major force for 12 steps and recovery for decades. He taught med students, health professionals, and others about the disease of addiction. He was a great friend to the recovering physician.  I met him during the late 70s when stigma and shame were hallmarks of addiction and before the Betty Ford Center opened.  He taught about the disease of addiction at a time when most physicians thought addiction and addicts were problems that did not need to be discussed or belonged in academic medical centers.”

The namesake and grandson of famed Japanese Biochemist Jokichi Takamine, who was the first scientist to isolate adrenalin, Dr. Takamine III was truly “one of a kind.”  He was also a singularly private person.  Although many of his clients were film industry luminaries, and their children, he shunned publicity.  His death went virtually unnoticed by the local and national press.  

He is survived by his daughter, Deborah Moyer, and many grateful patients, including some of our alumni.






Showing 5 comments
  • Jim Callahan

    Joe was a quiet, gentle and persistent force in helping to establish addiction medicine as a medical specialty. I met and worked with Joe when I was EVP/CEO of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Thanks to Joe and other addiction medicine physicians, who often go unrecognized, addiction medicine will, in the not too distant future, be recognized as a medical specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). My sincere sympathies to Dr. Takamine’s daughter, Deborah Moyer, and his loved ones. Jim Callahan

  • Kathe Green

    Lucky for me Dr Joe was a close friend of my parents. He had a kind & gentle
    way of connecting with me when I was a wild child of 13. Dyslexia was not known back then
    But I had a severe case & couldn’t do basic math or read.
    With the patience of a saint Joe sat with me in the afternoons & taught me
    how to understand & do the “impossible”. He remained my friend all these years
    & was always available. Our world has lost a great human being.

  • Joan Borsten

    Received from Liz Winchell:
    Dr. Takamine worked exhaustively with my mother, Walda Winchell, to get me clean between the years of 1976-1979. He was a powerful influence in my life, even though I fought him every step of the way. Because of you talking to me about him last summer and giving me his number I was able to call and make my amends and thank him for how much he impacted my life. He called me back immediately and remembered my family all these years later. I told him I worked in the field and he was so loving and gracious. He gave me a ‘sobriety blessing’ that was unlike anything I’ve ever heard of or experienced. From what I’ve read of Dr. Bob this was something that was done in the early days of AA. It was amazing and I will never forget it, or him, or the synchronicity of speaking to him just a few months before he died. Very poignant! I love recovery!

  • Janet Flores

    I was thinking of Joe, as I so often do and I decided t do search and gratefully found this site. I met Joe in 2009 while I was interning at The Phoenix House. I was eventually hired in the Medical Dept. Without a doubt he was one of the most unselfish people I ever knew. He gave of himself and his time freely. He was a great mentor to me and we met weekly at one of his favorite breakfast spots, Fromans in Santa Monica. He loved his cinnamon raisin toast with butter and cream cheese and if we went for lunch the waiters always knew how to mix his lemonade and ice tea to HIS perfection. We always talked about the possibility of us becoming more then just friends and we would always laugh because he would always joke about where he was going to put the clothes he laid out for the next day. He always put them on the side of the bed he didn’t sleep on. But where would he put them if I were there. I knew the moment I met Joe he had a big crush on me that I am glad never faded. I love to look at the pictures I would try and take of us when it was kinda slow at work. When I look at these pictures (which I framed as soon as they were taken) it brings me so much joy because I don’t remember any pictures I have of two people who just were so happy and fortunate to know each other. I missed meeting his daughter at his service because I wanted to tell her how much he always looked forward to meeting her for lunch or dinner and that she was truly his pride and joy. I miss you Joe and look
    forward to seeing you when we meet again…Love, Janet

  • Julie Stone

    I have been thinking of contacting Dr. Takamini since I returned to LA just this June – hoping he was still around. I started looking for him online and just saw this article on his passing. What a wonderful man he was. He worked very closely with me in 1985 deftly guiding me on my journey towards recovery. I last saw him for lunch in 1989. When we said goodbye he hugged me and said “I am so very proud of you.” I will forever be indebted to Dr. Jokichi Takamine for the drug and alcohol free life I lead today. One day at a time.

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