Dr. Jokichi Takamine III, 1924-2013
Dr. 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.