Adams was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Anna Campbell Stewart (née Hunter) and Robert Loughridge Adams.

Adams graduated in 1963 from Wakefield High School.

Adams began medical school without an undergraduate degree, and earned his Doctor of Medicine degree at Virginia Commonwealth University (Medical College of Virginia) in 1971.

Patch, Linda, and friends founded the Gesundheit! Institute (originally known to many as the Zanies), which ran as a free community hospital from 1971 to 1984.

Adams and Edquist married in 1975 and had two sons, Atomic Zagnut "Zag" Adams and Lars Zig Edquist Adams

Since the 1990s Adams has supported the Ithaca Health Alliance (IHA), founded as the Ithaca Health Fund (IHF) by Paul Glover.

Adams was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award on January 29, 1997.

In January 2006 IHA (Ithaca Health Alliance) launched the Ithaca Free Clinic, bringing to life key aspects of Adams's vision. Adams has also given strong praise to Health Democracy, Glover's book written and published the same year.

In October 2007, Adams and the Gesundheit! Board unveiled its campaign to raise $1 million towards building a Teaching Center and Clinic on its land in West Virginia. The Center and Clinic will enable Gesundheit! to see patients and teach health care design.

In 2008, Adams agreed to become honorary chair of the "International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment" or IAACM. MindFreedom International, a nonprofit coalition that Gesundheit! belongs to as a sponsor group, launched the IAACM to support "creative maladjustment" and social change.

In March 2021, Adams announced that his left foot had been amputated in a below-the-knee amputation due to persistent problems from a MRSA infection.