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David C. Lewis, M.D.



David Lewis is Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Community Health and former Donald G. Millar Distinguished Professor of Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. Dr. Lewis has been a leading spokesperson for harm reduction (Lewis, Duncan and Clifford, 1997) and for the perspective that sees addiction as being a chronic disease like any other (Lewis, 1994; McLellan, Lewis, O'Brien and Kleber, 2000).

He began his career in the field of drug abuse while at Harvard Medical School and Boston's Beth Israel Hospital where he treated heroin addicts. He collaborated with Norman Zinberg, on of the leading figures in drug research, in writing two seminal papers on "the spectrum of heroin addiction".

From 1972 through 1979 he directed the famous Washingtonian Center for Addictions. He also served from 1977-1979 as a health policy advisor to Cleveland’s mayor Dennis Kucinich and became a leading advocate for legalization of heroin maintenance programs. He became Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in 1975.

In 1976 Dr. Lewis joined the Brown University faculty as an Associate Professor of Medicine and director of the Program in Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. He was named the first Donald G. Millar Distinguished Professor of Alcoholism and Addiction Studies at Brown University in 1979 and chaired the Department of Community Health from 1981 through 1986. In 1981, he also founded the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and developed it from five faculty members with an annual budget of $3000 into a 25-faculty-member, 110-employee training and research center with a multimillion dollar budget. He directed the alcohol studies center for 18 years prior to his retirement in 1999.

In 1976, Dr. Lewis was one of the founders of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA). He served as President of AMERSA from 1983 through 1985 and became Executive Editor of AMERSA's peer-reviewed, quarterly journal Substance Abuse in 1984. From 1986 through 1995 he was director of AMERSA's National Office, which was located at Brown University. From 1990 through 1991 he was Scholar-in-Residence in the National Academy of Sciences-Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC.

In a presentation at the 1996 annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, Dr. Lewis and David Duncan proposed that an alliance of health professionals could best bring about major reform of America's national drug policies. The following year Dr. Lewis convened a meeting of 37 of the nation's leading physicians who adopted a policy statement declaring the "war on drugs" to be a failed approach and calling for adoption of an approach to drug abuse based on prevention and treatment rather than law enforcement. That group incorporated as Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNDP), with Dr. Lewis as its Project Director from 1997 through 2003. In 2004, the organization expanded its membership to include a leaders of the legal profession and became Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy. Dr, Lewis continues to serve on PLNDP's Board of Directors.

Selected Publications

Lewis, D.C. (1964). Should physicians have greater freedom in prescribing narcotics? Issues in Current Medical Practice, 1, 2-7.

Lewis, D.C. (1994). A disease model of addiction. Principles of Addiction Medicine, American Society of Addiction Medicine, Washington, D.C., Chapter 7.

Lewis, D.C., Duncan, D.F., Clifford, P.R. (1997) Analyzing drug policy. Journal of Primary Prevention, 17(4), 351-361.

Lewis, D.C. & Zinberg, N.E. (1964). Narcotics usage: Historical perspective on a difficult medical problem. New England Journal of Medicine, 270, 1045-1050.

McLellan, A.T., Lewis, D.C., O'Brien, C.P., and Kleber, H.D. (2000) Drug Dependence, a Chronic Medical Illness, Implications for Treatment, Insurance, and Outcomes Evaluation, JAMA, Vol 284, No. 13 1689-1695

Contact Information

Center for Alcohol & Addiction Studies
Box G-S121-5
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912