Joseph L. Wright, 64, retired executive director of the Washington Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, died of cancer Dec. 31 at his home in Washington.

A licensed drug and alcoholism counselor, Mr. Wright was a member of the Alcohol and Drug Problems Association, the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, the D.C. Care Consortium, the Community Prevention Partnership, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Prevention Professionals and Advocates, the Mayor's Health Policy Council and the Prevention and Children-at-Risk Fund. He was a fellow of the A.K. Rice Institute, an organization concerned with group processes and leadership development.

In recognition of his contributions to the treatment of substance abuse, Mr. Wright received the Betty Ford Award at a White House ceremony attended by former president Gerald Ford and President Clinton in 1996.

Mr. Wright was born in Lena, S.C., and was raised in Washington. He attended Armstrong High School and graduated from Cardozo High. He also graduated from Federal City College, a forerunner of the University of the District of Columbia, where he majored in sociology.

Early in his career, Mr. Wright ran a halfway house for men for the D.C. Health Department and was a consultant on alcoholism and drug abuse. He went to work for the Washington council, a privately funded organization, in 1974, and he retired in 1997.

Mr. Wright was a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Council for the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Northwest Washington. He enjoyed travel and had made a number of trips to Europe and Africa.

His marriage to Barbara Mudd Wright ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Minnie Wright of Washington; seven children from his first marriage, Pamela Wright, Michael Wright, Joseph Wright, Vicky Wright, Karen Wright, David Wright and Cynthia Stover, all of Washington; two brothers, Edward Wright of East Orange, N.J., and Wesley Wright of Washington; three sisters, Ruth Odom of Savannah, Ga., Florrie McIntosh of Dale City and Elizabeth Wright of Washington; 19 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.