In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with

Dr Mate is a physician for The Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver s Downtown Eastside that provides housing and care to addicts who are in the last stages of addiction He gives us a powerful and fascinating look into the science of addiction, and the addiction process Dr Mate also shares with us heart wrenching personal interviews of addicts he has worked with These stories left me with feeling empathy and some understanding of individuals with addicted brains There are no recoveries here Dr Mate is a physician for The Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver s Downtown Eastside that provides housing and care to addicts who are in the last stages of addiction He gives us a powerful and fascinating look into the science of addiction, and the addiction process Dr Mate also shares with us heart wrenching personal interviews of addicts he has worked with These stories left me with feeling empathy and some understanding of individuals with addicted brains There are no recoveries here Even though these are important stories I did skip over some and when I am ready I might go back and read them I was glad to see Dr Mate address addiction and mental illness Which I feel is important to understand addiction The information in this book doesn t just apply to drug addiction but all addictions Dr Mate also tells us of his own addiction which is not a drug addiction There is so much good information in here that I can t even begin to say in a review I borrowed the Ebook from Overdrive but I am also going to purchase the book as I found it a very valuable source of information that I will be referencing back to I will admit the spiritual and 12 step program wasn t something I was interested in I would of likedinformation on evidence based therapy like CBT and Motivational enhancement training for treating addiction I would recommend this book to anyone with a loved one who you think might or has an addiction or to anyone looking to understand addiction or just want to challenge their views on addiction Written in clear, lucid prose any reasonably intelligent adult could understand, without a lot of confusing jargon, Dr Mate explains the forces behind addiction and why so many addicts fail time and time again to get clean, in spite of all the incentives for doing so This book gave me a lot to think about regarding the brain, and I also found his cautionary points about adoption studies and twin studies very interesting and relevant Mate conclusively demonstrates that addicts are not bad, t Written in clear, lucid prose any reasonably intelligent adult could understand, without a lot of confusing jargon, Dr Mate explains the forces behind addiction and why so many addicts fail time and time again to get clean, in spite of all the incentives for doing so This book gave me a lot to think about regarding the brain, and I also found his cautionary points about adoption studies and twin studies very interesting and relevant Mate conclusively demonstrates that addicts are not bad, that they have very little control of the actions surrounding their addiction, and that kind and loving parents can produce an addict just as easily as indifferent or abusive parents On the last point Mate uses his own experiences as a child Holocaust survivor as an example his parents loved him very much and cared for him as best they could, but the stress and deprivation of his infancy left an ineradicable mark on this brain development Finally, Mate sets forth a sensible harm reduction social policy that could potentially make life easier for everyone, not just addicts and their families, by reducing the problems drug abuse causes in the community.Everyone in Congress should read this book, as well as everyone who has to interact with addicts on a regular basis Dr Mate is a wise, forward thinking man This is a wonderfully written and comprehensive description of addiction, written from a liberal and compassionate perspective, by someone who has experienced problems with addiction himself.Part of Vancouver is dedicated to housing and helping people with serious addiction problems This is Downtown Eastside, where about five hotels are now used to provide accommodation for these people Dr Gabor Mat is their doctor and has a surgery in one of the hotels He is also a highly respected practiti This is a wonderfully written and comprehensive description of addiction, written from a liberal and compassionate perspective, by someone who has experienced problems with addiction himself.Part of Vancouver is dedicated to housing and helping people with serious addiction problems This is Downtown Eastside, where about five hotels are now used to provide accommodation for these people Dr Gabor Mat is their doctor and has a surgery in one of the hotels He is also a highly respected practitioner in the field of addictions.The book starts out by giving descriptions of some of Mat s patients, so we get an idea of them as people, and we get an inkling of the issues that cloud their lives It goes on to explore a wealth of other areas relating to addiction view spoiler The relationship between caregivers and their clients This is less about curing people andabout just being with them and respecting and supporting them I soon discovered that, in fact, I had very little to give I could not rescue people from their pain and sadness All I could offer was to walk beside them as a fellow human being, a kindred spirit Liz Evans, nurse at The Portland Hotel.Why people become addicts This is usually due to childhood trauma, or even trauma experienced by pregnant mothers and passed on to their children in the womb Human children as opposed to other mammals are particularly vulnerable, as they do so much of their brain development outside the womb in the early years of their lives A child needs to be in an attachment relationship with at least one reliably available, protective psychophysically present and reasonably non stressed adult, in order to develop healthily.A hierarchy of addiction There is a continuum of addiction, from those who inject heroin to high functioning addicts who shop too much, or who are workaholics Mat says I have come to see addiction not a a discrete, solid entity a case of Either you ve got it or you haven t but as a subtle and extensive continuum It s central, defining qualities are active in all addicts, from the honoured workaholic at the apex of society to the impoverished and criminalized crack fiend who haunts Skid Row Somewhere along that continuum I locate myself.The worse the addiction anddysfunctional the lifestyle, the higher the levels of distress that caused it.Theyou take drugs, the less pleasurable life becomes without them Just as we turn down the volume on a radio that is too loud, the brain of someone who misuses drugs adjusts by producing fewer neurotransmitters in the reward circuit, or by reducing the number of receptors that can receive signals As a result, the person s ability to experience pleasure from naturally rewarding i.e., reinforcing activities is also reduced Not everyone becomes an addict if exposed to drugs like heroin, barbiturates or amphetamines 20% of soldiers in Vietnam took these drugs When they came home, 19% were able to stop using them It is only those who had other problems who became addicted.Relapse rates amongst recovery addicts are high Chronic drug use remodels the brain s chemical structure, its anatomy and its physiological functioning It even alters the way the genes act in the nuclei of brain cells Vulnerability to cravings can continue for years.Drugs and genetic theory Mat thinks that the genetics theory for alcoholism has been disproved.Most chronic substance abusers are likely to have cross addictions About 70% of alcoholics are also heavy smokers compared to only 10% of the general population About half of compulsive gamblers are also alcoholics, and most are addicted to nicotine.Any passion can become an addiction How can you tell when it goes from one to the other It is possible to stop with a passion, but not an addiction.Effects of drug withdrawal or stopping a compulsive behaviour A generally glum mood, restlessness, aimlessness No doubt this has chemical components with diminished dopamine and endorphin levels The journey from self indulgence to depression is rapid and inexorable.Personality Traits of addiction prone personalities A lack of self regulation, instead they rely on external support to quell their discomfort and soothe their anxiety These things take the form of chemicals compulsive behaviours An excessive need for attention, approval or love They may seek outside activities to trigger elation or a sense of risk They are dependent on outside things to change their mood They have a poor hold over sudden feelings, urges or desires These come from the lower brain centres, and are meant to be inhibited by the cerebral cortex An absence of differentiation They find it all too easy to pick up moods from other people.Addiction and romantic relationships These have a great effect on people s moods if going well or badly, and are often reflected in level of drug use People are often unable to engage in a process of recovery because their partner is unwilling to join them Their relationship is seen as beingimportant than their health.What causes an addiction to one thing and not to another Often it is the first thing a person encounters that is able to soothe difficult feelings, or that suggests affection in a barren world, eg as the baby of a depressed mother, you will be held while being fed, and food may therefore come to meanto you than just physical sustenance.Higher rates of alcoholism among native peoples from various countries This is due to loss of psychological, social and economic integration into family and culture A sense of exclusion, isolation and powerlessness.The cost of buying drugs A cocaine habit can cost 200 300 ora day Heroin is much cheaper, at about 30 a day Funding often comes from stealing or prostitution With stealing, you only get about 10% of the goods value when you sell them on.Why some people manage to recover from hardcore addictions Self knowledgeStrengthSupportive environmentGood fortune LuckCapacity to endure pain and suffering.Fortuitous circumstances.A new relationship.A flash of insight.A sudden opening to faith.And we shouldn t judge those who can t recover Some people manage to recover from hardcore addictions Just because one person succeeds we cannot judge another person for failing It is evennonsensical to judge addicts by criteria derived from the experience of people with relatively normal lives It is unjust to hold a traumatized and neurologically impaired adult to the same standard as one not so afflicted says brain researcher Martin Teicher.How much actual freedom to choose does any one human possess There is only one answer we cannot know There is no way of gauging the burden of emotional suffering weighing down one person s psyche against another s that is why it is facile to demand that anyone should be able to just say no and to judge them as morally lacking if they can t This aberrant behaviour has traditionally been viewed as bad choices that are made voluntarily by the addict However recent studies have shown that repeated drug use leads to long lasting changes in the brain that undermine voluntary control Dr Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the U.S.Judging the addict We cannot help people when we put ourselves in a position of judgement Addicts, all but the few completely sociopathic ones, are deeply self critical and harsh with themselves They are keenly sensitive to judgemental tones in others and respond with withdrawal or defensive denial A prayer on wall of one of the clients, called Kim Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the Winds and where breath gives life to all the world around me, hear our cry, for we are small and weak Help me make peace with my greatest enemy myself The decriminalization of drugs Mat is in favour of this not least because of all the stealing prostitution that has to be done to raise the money to buy drugs Also the jails get filled with people with addictions He stresses that decriminalization is not the same as legalization With decriminalization, people are allowed to carry small amounts of drugs for personal use, but the manufacturing and selling of drugs is illegal.He believes that drugs should be given to confirmed users under safely controlled conditions, via doctors prescribing drugs to people addicted to them If they didn t have to spend exorbitant amounts on drugs that, in themselves are inexpensive to prepare, addicts would not be forced into crime, violence, prostitution or poverty to pay for their habits Ideally there would also be publicly funded rehab facilities with after care, to help those who may be able to stop their habits.Some people can function well if supplied with drugs at a level to meet their base needs Dr William Steward Halsted, who did incredible work at John Hopkins University in the early 20th century, was also a morphine addict for over 40 years Most hardcore addicts couldn t function at this level, even if their substance needs were met They have too many problems Even so, they would be much less of a burden on society if their basic needs were met.Decriminilization and crystal meth methamphetamine Here Mat shows reservations He says there is no safe way to use it The only solution is to try and help people wean off it.Mindfulness as a path to recovery In this section Mat talks quite a lot about his own addiction to buying classical music cds, and how mindfulness can help those whose problems are amenable to recovery He talks about the brain being plastic, therefore open to change, about people who have had strokes or depression, Tourettes or OCD, who have managed to improve their functioning Arduous effort is required on the part of any addict not least because their compulsions promise pleasure and reward But with some people and circumstances change is possible.Mindfulness and Bare Attention By consciously observing the workings of our mind, we are gradually able to let go of its habitual, programmed interpretations and automatic reactions.In a mindful state one can choose to be aware of the ebb and flow of emotions and thought patterns instead of brooding on their thought content eg someone may notice that feelings of resentment and a desire for vengeance keep flooding their mind Rather than just having the feelings, they will observe them Bare Attention is the clear and single minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us at the successive moment of perception It is called Bare because it attends just to the bare facts of a perception as presented either through the five physical senses or through the mind without reacting to them.Although Bare Attention was developed as a meditative practice, its use is not limited to formal meditation It is the conscious attending to what occurs in the mind as it takes in physical or emotional stimuli from within and outside the body.Meditation for the over active mind Mat has always wanted to meditate, but has found it impossibly difficult My addiction prone ADD brain always wants to look to the outside to get away from itself As a result I tend to oscillate between excessive, multitasking, busyness and a proclivity for vegging out , in ways that leave me non rested and dissatisfied Meditation, with its demand for stillness and self observation has not been an activity that I have joyfully embraced He says that at a meditation retreat, Mat had a breakthrough He realised that one doesn t have to be good at meditation, achieve anything, or look for any particular result As with any skill only practise leads to improvement and improvement is not even the point The only point is the practise When I do practise meditation, I findease in my life I m calmer,emotionally present,compassionate to others and I am far less reactive to external triggers Recovery and honesty He talks about exposing one s addictions to the light of day much easier when you are treating yourself with compassionate curiosity Even before I stopped buying compact discs, for months I would tell Rae his wife about it I had nothing to hide, my compassionate curiosity discovered Exposed to the light of day, the addictive compulsion does not develop power and heft I had much less of an urge to binge, and the occasional visit to the music store did not evoke a helpless desire to go back the same day, or the or the next My advice to anyone with addictive behaviours is to begin telling the truth.Addictions and stress If you live a life full of stress you are unlikely to be able to break your addiction Addictions in the short term act as stress relievers.People often take on chronic stresses because of ingrained beliefs of how we ought to behave.For friends and family of the addict Motivation has to come from the addict No one outside can do that Love and kindness though work much better than tough love interventions It s fine to set your boundaries with an addict, but not in order to control or blame them Instead you need to communicate what you can and cannot accept.If you have to choose between staying with an addict and feeling resentment, or leaving and feeling guilt, opt for the guilt hide spoiler I can t think of a better book to be read on the subject Whilst I still have a few questions most of all.surely the sudden rise in opiate addictions via medical prescriptions, cannot all be explained in the the theories put forward by Mat , I nevertheless feel I have learnt an enormous amount from this book I read this for a master of social work drug and alcohol class The professor said we would likely become enthralled and breeze through it s 400 plus pages in a weekend as she did That was not my experience I took a really long time reading this book, highlighting as I went It was an excellent introduction to the field of addiction, blending tender humanity with hard science I found Dr Mate s critiques on the horribly flawed legal system to be spot on, his personal vingetes and descriptions I read this for a master of social work drug and alcohol class The professor said we would likely become enthralled and breeze through it s 400 plus pages in a weekend as she did That was not my experience I took a really long time reading this book, highlighting as I went It was an excellent introduction to the field of addiction, blending tender humanity with hard science I found Dr Mate s critiques on the horribly flawed legal system to be spot on, his personal vingetes and descriptions of the addicts he knows and treats to be intimate and engaging, and most especially I loved the end of the book where Dr Mate breaks down the force behind the addiction and what personal healing entails Once addiction is opened up in this way, it becomes apparent that all of us function on this continuum, which makes empathy a little easier to come by and understanding a little closer to home Addiction is epidemic in our society, as is evidenced by the variety of forms it takes, from the workaholics and shopaholics, to the destructive avenues like sex, alcohol, and drug addictions Given the cost of addiction on our families and society at large, it is imperative that we gain a better understanding of this perplexing phenomenon Dr Gabor Mat s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is a valuable contribution toward this end Arguing against the prevailing notions of addiction as either a genetic disease or an individual moral failure, Dr Mat combines first person accounts, riveting case studies, cutting edge research and passionate argument to show that addiction all addiction is the result of human development gone askew This audio book combines the Canadian and US editions and is read with audible compassion by Dr Mat s son, Daniel Mat , a New York based writer and voice actor, who received an Earphone Award from Audiofile for this title I m not much of a fangirl until it comes to doctors or scientists that step out of the box of the limited view of their academic training and start learning and teaching from their experiences Open mindedness is S E X Y.So I fangirl all over the place when it comes to Gabor Mat Not only is he from my home country Canada , he has spoken on trauma as being at the root of addiction, mental illness and a number of other behavioural disorders trauma as defined as a disconnection from oneself I m not much of a fangirl until it comes to doctors or scientists that step out of the box of the limited view of their academic training and start learning and teaching from their experiences Open mindedness is S E X Y.So I fangirl all over the place when it comes to Gabor Mat Not only is he from my home country Canada , he has spoken on trauma as being at the root of addiction, mental illness and a number of other behavioural disorders trauma as defined as a disconnection from oneself which in my experience with such, is bang on TRUTH He affirms my experiences, he opens me up to different perspectives, and I love him for it.I cannot wait to dive into this book To a hammer, everything looks like a nail And Mat is one dedicated hammer.The first part of the book patients personal histories is the best and only good part The rest is painfully repetitive and unnecessary stretched out development of the author s Grand Theory of Human Addiction The whole thing is almost preposterous.For example, p233 If children today are at greater risk for obesity than those of previous generations, it s not simply because they re less physically active as a resul To a hammer, everything looks like a nail And Mat is one dedicated hammer.The first part of the book patients personal histories is the best and only good part The rest is painfully repetitive and unnecessary stretched out development of the author s Grand Theory of Human Addiction The whole thing is almost preposterous.For example, p233 If children today are at greater risk for obesity than those of previous generations, it s not simply because they re less physically active as a result of being absorbed in TV or computers It s primarily because under ordinary peacetime conditions there has never before been a generation so stressed and so starved of nurturing adult relationships Seriously, this is what we are going with here It s such an incomplete and incompetent argument, and it s hardly the first or the last one It was the final nail in the coffin of my patience with this book.I get it, Mat is endlessly compassionate and wants the reader to come on that trip with him Unfortunately, if you separate the compassion from the model he s advocating for, you realize that compassion and lazy thinking are the only glue keeping his ragtag theory in one piece Also, it is hard not to get fed up with Mat s many dramatic accounts of his own so called addiction compulsive purchases of classic music CDs Really, he s completely serous about that He even goes to AA meetings and tells his addiction story, to have other attendees as well as his patients confirm to him that what he experiences is totally the same addiction mechanism at play as theirs Jesus H Christ on a bicycle At one point, you might catch yourself wondering if everyhing is okay with Mr Mat Ten years later, is he still spending hundreds of dollars on CDs, or has online streaming provided some relief and savings You might even wonder how he would cope if his addiction is taken away from him We might never know.It is obvious there might be something to some parts of his theory, but this hot mess I didn t say dumpster fire of a book is not it This is a fascinating look at the chemistry of addiction and a call to aprogressive public policy Dr Gabor Mate s style of writing is captivating and he is masterful at explaining specialized knowledge in laymen s language My own mother, a recent graduate of medical school, when I summarized some of his arguments, commented on how Dr Mate made connections for her that she could not quite make herself during her medical training due to the emphasis on treatment over cause with respec This is a fascinating look at the chemistry of addiction and a call to aprogressive public policy Dr Gabor Mate s style of writing is captivating and he is masterful at explaining specialized knowledge in laymen s language My own mother, a recent graduate of medical school, when I summarized some of his arguments, commented on how Dr Mate made connections for her that she could not quite make herself during her medical training due to the emphasis on treatment over cause with respect to mental disorders and she agreed with his criticisms of the way in which doctors are educated in the West She also was amazed at how I was able to explain things to her that she herself had spent the past 8 years of her life learning based on Dr Gabe s explanations.Stylistically, Dr Mate draws you in by giving you the biographies of several of his patients at the harm mitigation facility that he currently works for Most, if not all, of the stories are of people who were severely abused as children and as a result of the pain, turned to substance abuse as a form of self medication and perhapsimportantly for his purposes why this self medication is actually an effective short term solution stories of which I am all to familiar with in my own professional life as a youth counselor Just as you feel you ve been beat over the head one too many times with such heart wrenching stories, Dr Mate switches themes and slowly takes you through the process of addiction and eventual self recovery As this is not a propaganda piece very few of those initial stories have entirely happy endings People are people and the story which stuck with me the most is of a man who called his sister in Ireland to tell her that he would not be flying home and that he instead would make arrangements for his body to be sent to the family plot Other stories are perhapsprofound, but this particular one that heor less ends with highlights the unfortunate reality that the lives of most hardcore addicts end in early death something my family knows all too well Far from being a simple tract on addiction, Dr Mate demonstrates how drug addicts are just an extreme end of a continuum of behavior that applies to large segments of society By weaving together the connections between early childhood development in ureto and post natal and the effects of trauma on the human psyche, Dr Mate makes the case not only for acomprehensive and compassionate health care system, but establishes the fact that the rising levels of addiction among modern and I would say modernizing nations is littlethan a symptom of a larger social ill that is increasingly becomingandmalignant the breakdown of the traditional family and community social structure That being so, no amount of tough love or criminal justice involvement is going to cure the problem Instead, our approach the American approach that we have unfortunately successfully forced down the throats of most other nations only further punishes and ostracizes the same victims of abuse that we all felt compassion for at an earlier point in these same peoples lives.In keeping with the themes of his previous works which I have not had the good fortune to read yet, but have heard numerous interviews Dr Mate has given in American media , this is a book that should be essential reading for anyone involved in the health care industry especially mental health and youth behavioral management as the rate of substance abuse in those communities is incredibly high I would also recommend this to anyone with young children, victims of abuse and young couples seeking to have little ones Evenso, this is also a must read for anyone who suffers from any type of addiction One particular chapter is of vital importance A Word to Families, Friends and Caregivers in which he offers very realistic and practical advice to the families and loved ones of addicts The phrase, Choose guilt over resentment was profound and likewise was the self critical analysis Dr Mate prescribes for this group of people most notably that we as family, loved ones or caregivers often make the process of recovery that muchdifficult The fact that in addition to being a youth counselor who worked with the very same sorts of people that eventually found their way into the Portland Hotel , that I am also the son of a recovered drug addict and alcoholic made the book that muchmeaningful to me.After Dr Mate establishes the causes and the physiological factors that lead to addiction he gives advice on how to achieve sobriety In terms of my own religious persuasion, I could see clear parallels between Dr Mate s recommendations and my own religious spiritual tradition His methods of self help reflect the techniques recommended by a savant I am affiliated to as the most tried and true techniques for the breaking bad habits and removing sin from one s life This is particularly true is his Four Steps Plus One , his adaptation of a self help program designed by UCLA, which is in lock step with the tarbiyah of the Darqawi Shadhili Order and the famed Muraqaba Durus one of its contemporary Hashimi branches which was adopted and expanded as a part of the practical spirituality contained in Agenda to Change Our Condition For instance, in regard to the first step, Relabeling Dr Mate gives the following insight, The point of relabeling is not to make the addictive urge disappear it s not going to, at least not for a long time, since it was wired into the brain long ago It is strengthening every time you give in to it and every time you try to suppress it forcibly p 377 8 Upon reading this, I was reminded simultaneously of the Sufic insights regarding khawatir thoughts and how they turn into obsessions i.e behavioral addiction , Mawlay al Arabi s elucidations on hawa vain caprice which is precisely what Dr Mate is talking about when he identifies addictive behaviors as things we all know are not good for us in the long run, even as they serve some short term purpose and of the advice that in respect to spiritual self discipline intended to rid oneself of such problems, one should not go overboard, lest the nafs kick and scream in revolt As another example, on Refocusing Rather than engage the addictive activity, find something else to do Your initial goal is modest buy yourself just fifteen minutes Choose something that you enjoy and that will keep you active preferably something healthy and creative, but anything that will please you without causing greater harm p 379 80 I.e Ours is not a way of rigorous spiritual struggle Rather, ours is a way of diplomacy We give the nafs what it wants within the convinces of the Sacred Law on the condition that it is going to work for us when we need it to And the entire chapter Sobriety and the External Milieu can be summed up with the words of Abu al Hasan al Shadhili, Do not stir your feet except where you expect the reward of Allah and do not sit except where you are likely to be safe from disobeying Allah Or as Dr Mate put it, C reating an external environment that can support one s move towards conscious awareness is one essential feature of the recovery process p 388 I could go on and on as I found myself able to fill in the gaps explicitly for Dr Mate in this part of the book, as he clearly has studied Buddhism and his spirituality is rooted entirely in that world view Also being a Jew, he is familiar enough with the Old and New Testament but seems to have little to no familiarity with Islam and its spiritual teachings though I do appreciate his referencing of the Qur an Due to this, perhaps the only chapter of the book that I was not incredibly fond of was his attempt to relate the religious message of AA s 12 Step Program to a wider audience which undoubtedly involved a certain world view and theological relativism This is perhaps the weakest chapter of the book, though I would imagine that those who share his philosophy may disagree with me And as it is fairly short, you do not get the impression that you are being preached to Rather, Dr Mate is clearly trying his best to articulate his spirituality to a general audience that may not necessarily agree with his personal theological conclusions And in that, he succeeded, as I found myself agreeing with the overall message of this particular chapter In sum, from cover to cover, this is a fascinating book that I highly recommend to everyone as there are few of us who to one degree or another is not addicted to something whether it be methamphetamine, prestige, attention or power Everyone who is honest with themselves will see something of themselves between the covers and will walk away a better person for it And those who know, love or have loved someone addicted to life debilitating and or illegal substances will walk away with aprofound understanding of their struggles Wa Llahu alim wa musta am If you live or work in a city, every day, you see people like those described in the first 100 pages or so of this book Dr Gabor gives you their back stories They are the author s drug addicted patients After you see how much people are willing to lose to get the next hit, you learn of the brain chemistry, social policy, how addicts can be treated and Dr Gabor s own socially accepted addictions Gabor cites research that validates common sense for anyone who is observing Addiction and I p If you live or work in a city, every day, you see people like those described in the first 100 pages or so of this book Dr Gabor gives you their back stories They are the author s drug addicted patients After you see how much people are willing to lose to get the next hit, you learn of the brain chemistry, social policy, how addicts can be treated and Dr Gabor s own socially accepted addictions Gabor cites research that validates common sense for anyone who is observing Addiction and I presume a lot else can start in the womb when 17% of the brain is formed If the mother is stressed living in poverty, violence, with abuse the stress of her life will be transmitted The result for the fetus is that the systems for producing two important soothing agents dopamine and endorphin will be underdeveloped After birth, if the stress continues as the brainfully develops its circuitry the soothing systems will remain underdeveloped leaving the child at risk for taking anything that will produce these agents For these children and the teens and adults they become, the drug experience is a well being, previously not experienced Gabor shows how the body develops systems to implant a habit and embeds triggers that create a hungry ghost As the ghost is fed with its required drugs, the area of the brain governing impulse atrophies leaving the person disabled in the ability to stop taking drugs..Gabor uses his own experience to illustrate As a Jew born in Hungary in 1944, he was born into stress To save him, his mother gave him to a gentile family Regardless of all the love his mother gave him, and that of the caregivers, his own brain, knowing only of the stress, did not develop soothing systems Unlike his patients, he had a middle class family and guidance and became a workaholic his work and his love of classical music feed his hungry ghost to the neglect of his wife and son He shows how this social addiction like gambling, shopping, sex, power, etc are all generated by the brain in the same way as substance addiction.While his profession is set up to give the addict hope and a means to breaking free, Gabor shows how the odds for a long term user are low to impossible At some point the brain is wired to require the drug and disable restraint systems The evidence can be shown scientifically in the brain and in merely observing how much the addict is willing to lose to have it.With this background, Gabor takes on the War on Drugs and how it plays out on the street and the havoc it wreaks on the families of the addicted without solving the problem He poses common sense solutions and shows how difficult they are to implement with current priorities.The book is sweeping in outlining the problem and its personal and social costs While published in 2008, this must be a classic I was wait listed for one of our library s 5 copies for 4 months If you are interested in this topic or have an addicted love one, you will want to read this book Dr Mate s book is one of the most important of our age Throughout he documents the plague of our time, addictions ranging from drug abuse to work a holism He cites study after study, experience he is a serial addict himself as a drug counselor and researcher It is stress, he argues, prenatal and as infants, which causes the childhood brain to wire itself in self destructive ways These efforts are essential to survival as children but devastating in adolescents and adults As a fetus his s Dr Mate s book is one of the most important of our age Throughout he documents the plague of our time, addictions ranging from drug abuse to work a holism He cites study after study, experience he is a serial addict himself as a drug counselor and researcher It is stress, he argues, prenatal and as infants, which causes the childhood brain to wire itself in self destructive ways These efforts are essential to survival as children but devastating in adolescents and adults As a fetus his stress was caused by the Nazi extermination of Jews and later by being passed from one frantic safe house to another Warfare severs infant bonding and such children never recover to gain a sense of trust in their environment But it doesn t take warfare to cause this disconnect Spousal abuse, hunger, a parent s own emotional baggage all symptoms of Western culture and the demand for everwork and things make for a wide range of unsettled children, teens and adults Individual assurance gets short shrift and accounts for the endless variations of magical, positive and wishful thinking which attract us to charlatans of various talents.Mate s recommendations are insightful and even possible, if civic and medical leaders would examine them They are compassionate, workable and even much less expensive than our never ending war on drugs Tremendous piece of work In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction


About the Author: Gabor Maté

Dr Gabor Mat CM is a Hungarian born Canadian physician who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction and is also widely recognized for his unique perspective on Attention Deficit Disorder and his firmly held belief in the connection between mind and body health.Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944, he is a survivor of the Nazi genocide His maternal grandparents were killed in Auschwitz when he was five months old, his aunt disappeared during the war, and his father endured forced labour at the hands of the Nazis He emigrated to Canada with his family in 1957 After graduating with a B.A from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and a few years as a high school English and literature teacher, he returned to school to pursue his childhood dream of being a physician.Mat ran a private family practice in East Vancouver for over twenty years He was also the medical co ordinator of the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital for seven years Currently he is the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and resource centre for the people of Vancouver s Downtown Eastside Many of his patients suffer from mental illness, drug addiction and HIV, or all three.Most recently, he has written about his experiences working with addicts in In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.He made national headlines in defense of the physicians working at Insite a legal supervised safe injection site after the federal Minister of Health, Tony Clement, attacked them as unethical.


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