When you first meet 77-year-old Dr. Meg Patterson, you may not
believe that she has been involved in shaping rock history by saving the
lives of several of rock’s jet-set junkies. This diminutive Scottish
surgeon with a sweet Scottish burr, became at 21, the youngest woman to
qualify as a doctor at
Scotland’s Aberdeen University and in 1948 went as a medical missionary
to India. She has helped rescue drug abusers Eric Clapton, Keith Moon,
Rolling Stones bad boy Keith Richards and The Who’s Peter Townsend, who
frankly admits, “If I hadn’t gone to Meg, I’d be dead.”

Dr. Meg, a qualified general surgeon, went to the Far East as a
missionary, where she first became acquainted with the drug problem and
began to develop the unique “Black Box” treatment for which she has won
great respect in her profession.

Now, along with her 79-year-old husband, George, a Christian
missionary and journalist whom she met while on vacation along the
Tibetan border, the couple have recently moved to the San Diego area,
and have agreed to reveal their astonishing story which is made even
more unusual by the fact that they don’t
like rock music.

“Neither Meg nor I care for rock music, although we can enjoy some of
Eric’s rhythm and blues,” said George Patterson. “We most like
classical, and gospel when well sung and played, and I enjoy Dixieland
music. We have been to several rock music concerts as we received
tickets from the performers we know. Meg tolerated them better than I

It was while living in Hong Kong that Dr. Meg first stumbled across
her revolutionary’s detox treatment, which is called NeuroElectric
Therapy (NET). She says her Chinese neurosurgeon colleague went into
Mainland China to learn electro-acupuncture as an anesthetic for all
surgical operations.

Out of this, she developed her NET treatment which entails the
placement of two electrodes behind the ears of the person being treated
and connected them to a Sony Walkman-like black box that is worn
continually night and day.

The box sends out a weak electric current, which, according to
Patterson, stimulates production of several neurochemicals including
pain-reducing endorphins. The release of endorphins, normally
interrupted by consumption of heroin and cocaine, is believed to
eliminate the classic traumatic symptoms of withdrawal — anxiety, runny
nose, stomach cramps.

Dr. Meg emphasizes that NET is just the first step toward
rehabilitation. In her book “Hooked?” (Faber and Faber, London, 1986),
she says that counseling is mandatory to address “the underlying cause
that produces the addiction in the first place.” As a committed
believer, Patterson prefers Christian-oriented counseling, since
addiction is ”fundamentally a spiritual problem,” but she supports
other therapies as well. She claims that following NET, rehabilitation
can take as little as two months.

“By the end of the 10-day therapy, your mood starts to stabilize. You
just feel normal,” said Pete Townsend, lead guitarist of The Who, who
underwent NET with Patterson in 1982 to treat cocaine, heroin and
tranquilizer abuse.

When guitar legend Eric Clapton, who formed Cream and is reckoned by
his peers to be the greatest living blues guitarist, first came to her
for treatment in 1974, she says she had to ask her children, Lorne,
Sean, and Myrrh, who he was.

Clapton moved into the couple’s home in Harley Street, London, where
they had recently moved, after 10 years in Hong Kong, so that they could
control his treatment. During this time, George Patterson was able to
talk to Clapton about Christianity. “When I spoke of the necessity for
love and repentance and forgiveness as antidotes for sin and hate and
wrong doing, or quoted the words of Christ and the necessity for
obedience to the will of God, I was squirmingly conscious of being a
hypocrite, because these were merely theoretical postulations to me now
and not a personal experience,” said George Patterson. Shortly after
this, Patterson re-committed his own life to God.

George Patterson was surprised when Clapton said that he had become a
Christian some years earlier, when a Scots-born disc jockey had traveled
on a concert tour of the U.S. with Clapton for several months. However,
his faith had been dented when the Christian suddenly said during a
party, “I feel God wants me to pray.” Apparently Eric’s friend lost his
temper and stormed out, which became a turning point for Clapton, who
felt that if God could not hold on to a dedicated believer in such a
situation, he was no longer sure if he could continue to hold his own
hesitant faith.

Then he was able to pray with Clapton to recommit his life to Christ.
He then told him to pick up his guitar and let God guide him. Clapton
soon picked up his guitar and began composing a beautiful blues lullaby
entitled, “Give Me Strength.” At first the only lines he could think
of, “Lord, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray, Give me, dear Lord,
give me strength for today.” When he completed it, it appeared on his
album, “461 Ocean Boulevard.”

In a book by Ray Coleman called “Survivor,” which tells the story of
Eric Clapton, the guitarist is quoted as saying, “I conquered drugs
through my own wish or will to survive, with the help of Meg Patterson
and her husband and family. They gave me love, and I found that was the
medicine I needed as much as, if not more than, the actual
electro-acupuncture which was she practicing. Mine was a totally
self-centered way of getting better.”

It was in 1997 that Meg received a call from Canada asking if she
would treat urgently and secretly Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

In her book, “Dr. Meg” (Word Books), she wrote, “I was not too
surprised by the call, for I had already been approached on a few
occasions by the Rolling Stones organisation about possible treatment
for Keith, after I had treated Eric, but they had never followed through
on the initial calls. This time the situation was drastically different.

“Keith had been arrested in Canada, during a tour there, with a large
amount of heroin in his room; consequently, instead of just being
charged with possession, he was being held on the much more serious
crime of drug trafficking, which could draw a sentence of 20 years’
imprisonment or more.”

She said that, while this would be a personal tragedy for Keith, it
would “also mean professional and financial disaster for the Rolling
Stones group and organisation.”

Because Keith was out on bail, and terms of the bail restricted him
to North America, the treatment would have to take place on the
continent. So, American Christian moviemaker Shorty Yeaworth and his
wife, Jean, offered their home. Shorty and Jean were film producers and
musicians, and they had worked with drug addicts in the past.

Meg and George met Richards and his common-law actress wife, Anita
Pallenberg, who Dr. Meg insisted also had to come off the drugs, at the
Philadelphia Airport reception area. “When they appeared in the airport
reception area they were accompanied by their seven-year-old son,
Marlon, who was almost as notorious as Keith for his behavior —
including taking drugs and alcohol in public.

“Keith and Anita were floating somewhere on Cloud Nine with drugs,
and Marlon was shouting and beating on them for attention,” she said.
“Keith, pale and haggard as always, was dressed in a white suit and
purple shirt, and he stood unsmiling beside an equally sullen Anita
while Bill Carter (the Rolling Stones attorney), embarrassingly said
that Keith had told him to send me and the doctors off, cancel the
arrangements, and to prepare to leave for New York right away.

“I took a deep breath, then slowly and clearly spelled it out to the
red-faced lawyer: either they could get into the car right away and get
on with the treatment as agreed, or we would immediately inform the
authorities — and Keith and Anita would never see New York, as they
would be on the plane back to Canada and prison. They might as well
learn right now that I was in charge, and that they would have to do
exactly as I said, as I was here to cure their addictions, not to play
silly games at the drug-induced whim of arrogant and temperamental

“The matter was settled … and when we got to Shorty and Jean
Yeaworth’s home Keith and Anita were still so high on drugs they did not
want to eat. I attached the machines to them, with the usual
instructions, then we all left them. … Anita was restless, but more
because of a huge thigh abscess — from her drug injections — than
anything else.”

Dr. Meg said that Keith slept for 43 hours, and when he finally
awoke, he was clear-eyed and refreshed.

Later Richards said, “It’s so simple it’s not true. It’s a little
metal box with leads that clip on to your ears, and in two or three
days, which is the worst period for kicking junk — it leaves your

Commented Dr. Meg, “It took more than that, of course. Over the next
three weeks there were times when things got very rough indeed,
especially when George was having to deal with the underlying causes of
addiction as they applied to Keith and the lifestyle of the Rolling
Stones. At one point, Keith threw his radio across the garden in fury
when George ordered him to turn off the blaring rock music while they
were having a discussion. But he certainly quickly lost the awful
haggard look and even started to look tanned and healthy from sitting in
the lovely gardens.

“When Mick Jagger came to visit him he said unbelievingly that he
hadn’t seen Keith look so well for 10 years. Ahmet Ertegun, the head of
Atlantic Records — who had provided me with research funds in the past
— also visited Keith and was so impressed he offered to raise funds for
the treatment to be introduced into the United States. But Keith’s
increasing restlessness was a problem, and even in our isolated
farmhouse there were dealers seeking to provide him with drugs — at
extortionate rates, of course.

“Apart from the drug dealers we were confident that the media and
others knew nothing of our whereabouts, until one day Shorty, after
answering the telephone, said that Norman Stone and Steve Turner were in
Washington to make a film and were on their way to see him in a couple
of hours. Shorty knew them, and had been unable to think up a good
reason to discourage their visit. We accepted the fact that they had
known about Eric Clapton, and had kept it confidential, and would no
doubt be prepared to do the same with Keith.

“Their faces were a study when they arrived and saw us, and Keith,
sitting there. Their film assignment was about black gospel music, and
they had been visiting Nashville among other places, interviewing people
known to Keith, so they were able to talk music gossip with him. It was
not possible to film Keith himself, but Norman arranged a filmed
interview with Dr. Dick Corbett, who was in charge of a leading
government drug treatment unit in New Jersey, at his drug clinic to
discuss his views about NET and the treatment of his present
unidentified patients. Dick confirmed that he was in touch with the
government regarding the treatment process, and that he was recommending
that NET be introduced into the United States.

“After three weeks at Shorty and Jean’s for the detox programme we
decided that Keith could leave and have the remaining three weeks in his
own rented home, with anonymous access to a local Philadelphia studio
where he could work with Mick Jagger on some recording ideas. On the day
he left there was a convoy of limousines to take Keith, Marlon their
son, and some of the Atlantic Records personnel to their home. I found
it very moving, after all the struggles of the past three weeks, to see
the tough, saturnine Keith give Jean Yeaworth a warm hug with his ‘thank
you’ for their hospitality — and then turn to George, give him a hug,
and say smilingly, ‘Take care, you b——.’

“When the black stretch limousine pulled away, on the window-ledge at
the rear there was conspicuously displayed the supposedly uncontrollable
Marlon’s personal Sunday school presentation copy of the Bible — which
he had been given while attending with the Winston’s son. He had refused
to allow it to be packed because he wanted to be certain that it went
with him!”

When asked for an opinion of the music of Keith Richards’ Rolling
Stones, Dr. Meg described it in one word: “Dreadful.”

Patterson’s treatment of singer Boy George in 1986, who had pleaded
guilty to the possession of heroin after a police raid on his London
home, was carried around the world. The treatment had began on the
evening of July 6 when Boy George telephoned Richard Branson, head of
Virgin Records, the singer’s recording company. Branson had been
suspicious that something was wrong with his star. “He broke down on the
telephone about the drugs he had been taking,” says Branson, referring
to George’s two-gram-a-day heroin habit.

The Pattersons, who treated Boy George at Branson’s Oxfordshire (UK)
country house, say that this was one of the most difficult cases from
the rock world they had tried to treat.

Now they are working on getting approval for Dr. Meg’s machine from
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the United States
Department of Health and Human Services. “We are in the process of
designing a new commercial model of Meg’s machine for their approval and
also patenting this
up-to-date model, as earlier models have been in the public domain for
some time and the patent is complicated. We reckon it will take us
another year or so before we ready to go worldwide. Meanwhile, we are
setting up a ‘model clinic’ of our treatment process for the poor in
Tijuana, Mexico, from which the statistics will help with the FDD

And, while all this is happening, George Patterson has recently
released his new book, “Patterson of Tibet: Death Throes of a Nation,”
published by ProMotion Publishing in San Diego.

(Dr. Meg Patterson and George Patterson can be reached through

Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist and author of some 38
books now living in Southern California with his wife, Norma.

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