Profoundly original, best-selling writer and physician Gabor Maté looks at the epidemic of addictions in our society, tells us why we are so prone to them, and details what is needed to liberate ourselves from their hold on our emotions and behaviors. Gabor Maté is a staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and harm-reduction facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. His patients are challenged by life-threatening drug addictions, mental illness, Hepatitis C or HIV, and in many cases, all four.
But if Dr. Maté's patients are at the far end of the spectrum, there are many among us who are also struggling with addictions. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, work, food, sex, gambling, and excessive inappropriate spending: what is amiss with our lives that we seek such self-destructive ways to comfort ourselves? And why is it so difficult to stop these habits, even as they threaten our health, jeopardize our relationships, and corrode our lives?
Starting with a close view of his drug-addicted patients, Dr. Maté looks at his own history of compulsive behavior, weaving a story of real people who struggle with addiction with the latest research on addiction and the brain. In a bold synthesis of clinical experience, insight and cutting edge scientific findings, Dr. Maté sheds light on this most puzzling of human frailties. He proposes a compassionate approach to helping drug addicts and, for the many behavior addicts among us, to addressing the void addiction is meant to fill.
"I believe there is one addiction process, whether it manifests in the lethal substance dependencies of my Downtown Eastside patients, the frantic self-soothing of overeaters or shopaholics, the obsessions of gamblers, sexaholics and compulsive internet users, or in the socially acceptable and even admired behaviours of the workaholic. Drug addicts are often dismissed and discounted as unworthy of empathy and respect. In telling their stories my intent is to help their voices to be heard and to shed light on the origins and nature of their ill-fated struggle to overcome suffering through substance use. Both in their flaws and their virtues they share much in common with the society that ostracizes them. If they have chosen a path to nowhere, they still have much to teach the rest of us. In the dark mirror of their lives we can trace outlines of our own."
from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
©2009 Gabor Maté (P)2011 Post Hypnotic Press Inc.
This is a deeply penetrating book about addicts and addictions. The book was written with compassion and understanding by a Doctor who works with addicts professionally and is also confronted with his own addictions. The author provides information on current brain science research that points to potential causes of addiction and explains why addicts continue to seek their drug or behavior of choice despite irreparable harm to themselves and their families. While listening to some of the stories of the drug addicts is a little depressing, the author also points out that you don’t need to be addicted to drugs to be considered an addict. Compulsive shopping, overeating and overworking are just a few common socially acceptable addictions. The author also talks about the failure of “The war on drugs” and some statistics to back up his liberal views on governmental drug policy. This is great information for anyone who has to deal with their own addiction or the addiction of a loved one.
Gabor Maté has done a great service in generating his new book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Anyone with an addicted friend or family member, persons concerned about the War on Drugs, and just ordinary citizens concerned about the drug culture will be well rewarded for reading Maté’s new book. Also the author of When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts starts out with a series of anecdotes introducing the reader to real drug addicts. Each has been under the care of Maté who is an MD practicing in Vancouver. These chapters are revealing, but not the meat of the book. In a later section, Maté details the neuroscience behind addiction and relates it to his own addictions (which are not drug related). In another, which I found the most helpful personally, he discusses drug policy. In particular, he distinguishes between decriminalization of drugs and making drug legal. He also approaches the issue of drug addiction as disease which has always troubled me. This is one fine book. It makes current thought on drug addiction and drug policy available to the concerned citizen. The book will be of value to the novice and professional alike. Please don’t pass this book by – it has important implications for everyone; tax payer, concerned citizen, law enforcement officer, social worker, and family member touched by addiction. It softened my heart – if I might add that. If you want to understand, this book is a good start. The reading of the text is well done.
Stunning, and captivating, if you are in any type of addiction field I recommend this book highly. absolutely Awesome
This was a very human, very sad story about the origins and the outcomes of addictive behavior told through the first person perspectives of Gabor Mate's drug addicted clients and through his own personal experience with workaholism and shopaholism. Arguments are backed up with experience, scientific research and a thoughtful narrative which makes a very strong case against the benefits to society of criminalizing the behavior of addicts.
The section on the psychological and physical origins of addiction was harrowing but also tremendously logical and compelling. I will never again think of these destructive behaviors simply through the lens of choice.
It was slightly weird to have the son reading the father's confession. While I was sympathetic to Gabor's personal challenges and to his addiction's origin story, there were very real consequences to his family that were an outgrowth of those addictions and it felt strange to hear the voice of the son reading that section...it was too clean, too much of an absolution.
Hearing the first person stories is hands down the best way to understand why drug policy should change from punitive to therapeutic. Gabor backs everything up with science which makes for strong arguments but does make it a bit of slog in some of the more technical chapters. Over all it could have been a smidge shorter but I enjoyed almost every section of the book and have recommended it to many friends. There are few among us who have not been touched by the pain of addiction to food, work, substance, whether the pain is experienced personally or though our connections to friends and lovers. This book is a great companion in approaching these very difficult questions and very tough experiences with hope, pragmatism, and respect for human weakness and human strength.
Really appreciated that his critique rose beyond the personal to the structural and gave strong arguments for the damage that punitive drug policies inflict on communities already decimated by violence, poverty and powerlessness. His focus on first people's experience was particularly haunting.
Deeply Resonant Read
Anybody can relate to the well-presented anecdotes and facts in this book.
My favorite part is that he makes the connection between behavioral and drug addictions.
I was moved by how open he was about his family and his personal struggles.
The descriptions of his patients are heart-rending, but powerful in the compassion he brings to his work. I think his scientific ideas -- that relatively mild traumas (like your mom being stressed out) during pregnancy and infancy will give you an addictive personality -- are half-baked at best and basically amount to saying that all of us are prone to addictive or compulsive behaviors. I also found his assertion that addiction did not exist before the Renaissance to be pretty odd. It was disappointing to have someone who is trying to advocate for harm reduction, a policy that is both compassionate and evidence-based, making so fast and loose with the evidence.
If you seek to understand the struggles of addiction, this book will provide information about the biological process, the behavioral processes, and how you and others move in and out of those processes. Its a little heavy at times, but its worth listening to.
The chapter called "A word to family, friends, and caregivers" had a lot to say about being a healthy participant in an addicts life. Its not all peaches and cream, but its honest and pure.
No, this was my first Audible book.
As a recovery addict (2 yrs 9 months) this book taught me more about myself than any other book about addiction I have read. Great book about compassion for others, why we think the way we do & loving yourself. This is a must read!
Speaking as one who deals with a behavioral addiction, I can not say enough about this book. Gabor's approach to discussing the issues of addiction with openness, honesty, and compassion took my breath away.
Some have argued that comparing his classical music habit to addiction to heroin is not valid. Yet Gabor's openness in discussing his shame, deception, and inability to stop, combined with the ultimate lack of satisfaction in his "acting out" behavior rings very true, and maps to my own addictive experience.
More to the point, there is great value in seeing addicts as people, and feeling compassion for their condition. His railing on the drug war strikes home as well, although some of the evidence is a little light. This book is certainly written from a liberal perspective, but removing politics from the book still leaves a heart wrenching tail of abuse, depression, pain, and lives which are out of control. I wish everybody could understand the life of an addict from this perspective.
This book covers many topics in depth relevant to addiction, and partcularlly the physical and biological cause and effect.
Why current prevailing social attitudes toward addiction are likely very ineffective, and most certainly inhumane, in light of biological reasons for addiction.
"Personal, touching, scientific, epic"
There is a synergy of perspectives here infused with tremendous compassion.
I highly commend this book to anyone with an interest in understanding addiction.
The book moves beyond personal experiences and cases into a thorough analysis of both the drives of addiction and the society which promotes and condemns an addictive nature.
This was surprisingly beautiful book as well as being very poignant. It opens the heart as well as the mind to some remarkable insights into this issue.
"Superb, Highly recomended"
The perspective and window into the lives of addicts and drug abusers that this writer gives is just phenomenal! I could not turn it off for a minute as I relieved the true life storys and whirlwind emotions that are sewn in throughout the book. Well written and Well read.
"Not for everyone"
I found this extremely long, meandering and repetitive. Many anecdotes were told before a point was clearly made, and many after the point was made, and the making of the point was itself quite laboured, rather than simply making a point then giving a few examples. I felt the author's comparison of his own "addiction" to buying CDs to the severe drug addiction of his patients to be misplaced. I can understand the (eventual) point being that we are all susceptible to addiction and there is little choice in the matter. But the long time getting to that point, and the extensive detailing of his emotions and behaviour around buying CDs, left me feeling it was self-absorbed, patronising and unhelpful.The rather monotonous and deliberate narration didn't help with my dislike of the style, which I found much too self-referencing. The personal view was, for me, very overdone.I would have been interested to know if Mate had a view on what addicts can do individually (if anything) to heal from addiction, and how they can be supported in that. Whether he ever gets to that I don't know. I just couldn't listen to the book any more.Obviously, others have got a lot out of it. Sadly, I didn't. It has a very particular style, and that style didn't suit me at all.
"compassionate and practical"
fantastic emotional honest raw loving wise spiritual aimed at the truth liberating challenging try it listen enjoy grow maybe thank you
"Beautiful & powerful"
So beautifully written & read, what a powerful book! I've read a lot of books about addiction but none have given the insight that Dr Mate offers from his experience, research & knowledge. Our shared humanity & frailty is the insight from this book that I will always try to remember. This book is a gift for us all. Thank you Dr Mate.
"Gabor Mate UNDERSTANDS Trauma Stress & Addiction"
He knows his stuff. I've watched a lot of his talks on you tube. I love his empathic way of talking on this subject. Would have been better if he had narrated but I guess he is a busy guy.
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