Martin Plant, 1946-2010

One of the world's leading experts on addiction has died.

April 29, 2010

Martin Plant was born in Birmingham on 7 August 1946. He studied for an external degree at the City of Birmingham College of Commerce and then an MA in sociology at the University of Nottingham. This was followed by a PhD at the University of Bristol on drug-taking among young people in the Cheltenham area that later formed the basis for his celebrated first book, Drugtakers in an English Town (1975).

After being appointed as a research sociologist at the University of Edinburgh in 1973, Professor Plant spent the bulk of his career in the Scottish capital, which allowed him to pursue his passion for mountaineering.

He served as director of the alcohol research group in Edinburgh's department of psychiatry (1978-97) and then director of the independent Alcohol and Health Research Centre, while securing a professorial fellowship in the department of medicine in 1993.

Professor Plant was impassioned and outspoken, and he was always concerned to study, understand and help those stigmatised by society.

He wrote extensively on the medical and social aspects of drug and alcohol misuse, in books such as Drinking Careers (1979), Drugs in Perspective (1981, revised 1987) and a number of jointly authored volumes, but he also looked at issues surrounding imprisonment, sex workers and HIV/Aids. He even published a novel, Project Wolf (2000), about the reintroduction of wolves into Scotland.

After almost three decades in Edinburgh, Professor Plant moved to the University of the West of England in 2002 as professor of addiction studies, where he carried out much of his research with his wife Moira, a professor of alcohol studies.

Their book, Binge Britain: Alcohol and the National Response (2006), was "highly commended" by the British Medical Association.

His final work, Drug Nation, was sent off to his publisher the day before he died.

For Douglas Cameron, retired senior lecturer in substance misuse at the University of Leicester, "Martin energised everyone with whom he came into contact ... We hitched a ride on his journey, deriving energy from his energy, and became the bigger and braver for it.

"Martin was never afraid to put his head above the parapet. If he felt strongly about something, he would stand up and be counted. It didn't matter whether it was releasing a wild bird from a cage outside a cafe or writing to the prime minister."

Professor Plant died of heart failure on 16 March 2010 and is survived by his wife and their daughter, Emma.

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