Dr Margaret Patterson, the missionary doctor from Aberdeen whose pioneering treatment helped rock legends such as Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend come off drugs, has died at a nursing home in Scotland.

Dr Meg as she was known, gained international fame for her successful treatment of Clapton, Townsend, Keith Richard, and Boy George in their battles with drug addiction, but she spent her much of her professional life fighting the western medical establishment for acceptance of her revolutionary methods.

The anti-addiction treatment she pioneered, known as NeuroElectric Therapy (NET), was originally based on a form of electro acupuncture Dr Meg discovered while working in Hong Kong. It involves using a small electric current to stimulate the body's natural painkillers to fight the symptoms of withdrawal.

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richard, one of her successful patients described the treatment: ''It's so simple it's not true. It's a litle 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 system.

''Actually you should be incredibly sick but for some reason you're not. I dunno why.''

Margaret Patterson was the youngest of five children. She was bought up in a religious home. Her father was a strict Plymouth Brethren, which had a considerable following among the fishing communities in the north-east of Scotland.

Brought up in Stanley Street, Aberdeen, Margaret was educated at the Central School in Aberdeen (now the Aberdeen Academy). She was dux for four years and left in 1939. Aged 16, she was accepted at Aberdeen University to read medicine and graduated MB, ChB when she was 21, one of the youngest doctors to do so. She won first prize in surgery. She went to work in the Aberdeen Sick Children's Hospital. In these days, the children there were given heroin for post-operative pain instead of morphine. She was curious as to how it quietened them and got a nurse to give her a shot and was violently sick. She then became a house surgeon at the maternity hospital before going to St. James Hospital in London where she worked under the eminent Norman Tanner. Still only 25 yeard old, she was elected FRCS (Edinburgh), the only woman amongst the 100 candidates, one of only 20 women who had become fellows,

and the only one in general surgery.

Her career took her to India as a medical missionary. In 1952 she visited the hill station of Kampilong on the borders of Tibet and met her husband to be, the journalist, George Patterson, another Plymouth Brethren. Origianally from Falkirk, he had tarvelled to Tibet as a missionary. They were married in King's College Chapel in Aberdeen the following year. It was during that period in India that she came to be known as Dr Meg. She held a number of surgical/teaching posts, with minimal resources establishing and expanding community hospitals and clinics. For these ''outstanding medical services'' she was awarded the MBE in 1961.

Moving to the far east, Dr Patterson was appointed surgeon-in-charge at Tung Wah hospital, Hong Kong. Here, along with her neurosurgical colleagues, she made in 1972 the chance discovery that changed her life.

Dr Meg explained later: ''A Chinese colleague went into mainland China to learn how to do electro-acupuncture for surgical operations, using it as an anaesthetic.

''When he was practising it on some patients back in Hong Kong he didn't realise some of them were addicts until they volunteered the fact that when they had this treatment it not only stopped the withdrawal symptoms -which were pretty bad in Hong Kong, the heroin was so pure - but it took away their craving for the drug.''

The next year, aged 50, she returned to Britain to pursue clinical and scientific investigation into the technique, giving up her beloved surgery to do so.

Dr Meg set about developing NET as as a non-acupuncture, non-pharmacological treatment. Despite some notable successes, there followed a constant struggle for adequate funding and medical recognition.

The London clinic treated hundreds of patients and, following the high-profile success of Clapton's battle with heroin addiction, received financial backing from non-patients including Yehudi Menuhin and Cliff Richard. But public funding was not forthcoming and the Pattersons were on the point of heading for America when a charitable trust provide enough money to set up a treatment centre at Broadhurst Manor in Kent, this lasted several years until a lack of funding forced its closure.

Dr Patterson did make the move to California but continued to treat patients in the UK and she hit the headlines again in 1986 when using her now famous '' black box'' to treat Boy George who at the time was wanted for questioning by the police.

Whilst treating Boy George at Richard Branson's home in the country, the press got wind of his whereabouts and descended on the house. She recalled: ''It was impossible to treat him in such circumstances, and we slipped away one evening, after dark, through the field at the back of the house. I was wearing only open sandals, and the fields were filled with thorns and thistles, so Richard insisted I ride on his back!''

Against considerable odds, Dr Patterson continued to promote her methods in many countries from her base in San Diego. Despite continuing controversy over the only partially-clarified scientific basis of her electrical technique, her peers in international addiction medicine acknowledged her ''significant contribution'' to the treatment of addiction.

But in November 1999, a week after opening a drug addiction clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, to be run by Real Life Ministries, a Christian charity, she suffered a major stroke. Although she had a measure of recovery in the months after the stroke, her health began to decline in 2000. In April 2001 she and her husband returned to Scotland and settled in Auchlochan Trust, a retirement community in Lesmahagow where she died.

She is survived by her husband, George, three children, five grandchildren, and by NET.

Margaret Angus Patterson, doctor; born November 9, 1922, died July 25, 2002.