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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction Paperback – Import, International Edition

ISBN-13: 978-0676977417 ISBN-10: 0676977413 Edition: 0th

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The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward
When the best option is to let go of the life you planned for yourself and find a new path, a world of possibilities can surprisingly open up.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676977413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676977417
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,508,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

He would probably dispute it, but Gabor Maté is something of a compassion machine. Diligently treating the drug addicts of Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside with sympathy in his heart and legislative reform in mind can't be easy. But Maté never judges. His book is a powerful call-to-arms, both for the decriminalization of drugs and for a more sympathetic and informed view of addiction. As Maté observes, "Those whom we dismiss as 'junkies' are not creatures from a different world, only men and women mired at the extreme end of a continuum on which, here or there, all of us might well locate ourselves." In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts begins by introducing us to many of Dr. Maté's most dire patients who steal, cheat, sell sex, and otherwise harm themselves for their next hit. Maté looks to the root causes of addiction, applying a clinical and psychological view to the physical manifestation and offering some enlightening answers for why people inflict such c! atastrophe on themselves.

Finally, he takes aim at the hugely ineffectual, largely U.S.-led War on Drugs (and its worldwide followers), challenging the wisdom of fighting drugs instead of aiding the addicts, and showing how controversial measures such as safe injection sites are measurably more successful at reducing drug-related crime and the spread of disease than anything most major governments have going. It's not easy reading, but we ignore his arguments at our peril. When it comes to combating the drug trade and the ravages of addiction, society can use all the help it can get. --Kim Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A harrowingly honest, compassionate, sometimes angry look at addiction and the people whose lives have been disordered by it."
—Ottawa Citizen

"Maté does a great service by forcing us to confront the us-and-them mentality that drives the get-tough responses to addiction.... I highly recommend Hungry Ghosts to everyone seeking insight into addiction."
The Vancouver Sun

"Excellent.... One of the book's strengths is Maté's detailed and compassionate characterization of the afflicted addicts he treats, but this is not just a memoir. Rather, using his own experience as well as the most advanced recent research, he attempts to delineate the closely interrelated psychological, social, and neurological dimensions of addiction.... A calm, unjudging, compassionate attentiveness to what is happening within."
The Walrus

Customer Reviews

This book is very thoughtful, interesting and well written.
Bonnie Rockefeller
I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling to understand addiction.
Dr. Mate is an expert in drug addiction and works at a clinic in Canada.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

277 of 283 people found the following review helpful By Zoeeagleeye VINE VOICE on December 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In all innocence I picked up Gabor Mate's book and in no time I was stunned to find that I was reading about myself. No, I am neither a drug addict nor alcoholic, but I have several other addictions I have been ashamed of my whole life. By the time I finished reading this insightful, compassionate, detailed book, I knew finally who I was, how I got that way and what I could do about it.

I honestly have no idea how anyone could read this book and give less than 5 stars. First of all, the 3-star reviewer totally missed several important points concerning Mate's actions at home and on the job. Money was given to his staff, not as a bribe, but as an incentive for him to stop being late and to give himself a little spiritual humbling. As for Mate's own addictions, I feel so much safer to be in the hands of a man who is frank and transparent with me and says, "Let's try this," rather than one who is distantly perfect and ultimately unknowable, who is given to uttering commands and pronouncements. I know who I would trust more.

Mate may suffer from ADD (which I also do) but let me assure you that his prose is every bit as fluid, clear and inspired as the prose you are presently reading. More, his writing is a joy to read. The book itself is very well presented, almost like a mystery story with as happy an ending as one can expect after several murders have been committed in the beginning! The book starts with the stories, the life histories and personality details of his patients. It goes on to then give the medical and psychological and political facts about addictive behavior, and the last chapters are devoted to help, healing and hope. It could not be more beautifully structured!
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Van Isle Rev on August 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Those who are looking for a brief look at addiction ought to look elsewhere; whatever else can be said about Gabor Mate's In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, it represents a lengthy, multi-faceted look at the reality of addiction.

Mate is a Canadian physician who practices medicine in one of Canada's poorest and most socially challenged neighbourhoods: Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Drawing upon his years of experience working with addicts, as well as his expertise in the fields of stress management and attention deficit disorder, Mate has produced a book that capably examines addiction from a wide variety of vantage points.

That having been said, it is only fair to acknowledge that I, for one, was not equally enamoured of the book's every section. Mate is at his strongest as a narrator; I was truly gripped by the lengthy sections of the book in which Mate is content simply to share the experiences--the oftentimes harrowing experiences--of the clients with whom he works. I was equally impressed with his refreshingly accessible account of the implications of new discoveries in the field of brain science, as scientists try to explain the processes that create and perpetuate addiction.. In addition, the book's final section--on "the ecology of healing"-- contained some genuinely fresh insights and some genuinely practical suggestions. These sections most certainly justify the book's purchase.

I found other sections of the book less satisfactory. Although I share Mate's antipathy toward the "war on drugs", I found his own policy prescriptions less than fully convincing. (Then again, I'm glad to have had an opportunity to grapple with his recommendations).
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By W. A. Carpenter VINE VOICE on January 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dr. Mate's book is interesting and complete as he discusses the horrible problem of drug addiction. The book has sections about the life stories of addicts, the brain chemistry of addiction, the addictive process, the war on drugs, and the possibilities for overcoming addiction. Despite the very grim nature of the subject matter, the book is both hopeful and helpful.

There is a wide continuum of addiction from consumerism, to sugar, to tobacco, to alcohol, to narcotics. As I read the book, it become clear that many of us have at least some degree of unwanted behavior in response to the chemical promptings of our brains. Hardcore drug addicts are not so very different from the rest of us. Given this context, Dr. Mate's critique of the war on drugs is very compelling. I found his arguments for decriminalizing (but not legalizing) drugs to be very persuasive.

Near the end of the book he offers a four (or five) part approach to treating addiction that seems very helpful in part because it promises no magical overnight results, but instead calls for lots of mindful work repeated many times. "Hungry ghosts" is a metaphorical image from Buddhism for those with appetites that can't be met; the idea that mindfulness, often cultivated by meditation, is the best way to treat these appetites helps bring the book full circle.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Angela M. Peacock on December 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I left a 12-step group about 8 months ago and stumbled upon this book while looking for a Peter Levine Book. The title sounded right up my alley so I ordered. Did not disappoint and gave me an alternate view of addiction and all its manifestations. I cried many times as a sense of recognition hit. I read my self in this book over and over. I owe Dr. Mate' a great sense of gratitude for making the right, conscious decision for ME on leaving 12-step groups and the "disease" model. He validated a lot of my feelings in this book on where exactly my addictions came from and what pieces of me had yet to be seen where 12-steps overlooked those parts. As I am still reading this great book, and uncover more hidden gems within myself which is what I needed all along. I continue to stay sober/clean and work on my internal mess and come to the solutions that are best for me. Thank You Dr. Mate' if you changed 1 person, it's me and I owe you a huge hug and a resounding "YES!" from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for this wonderful manual of healing and hope!
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More About the Author

Gabor Maté, MD, is a physician, author, seminar leader, and acclaimed public speaker. His bestselling books include Scattered, When the Body Says No, and Hold onto Your Kids. A former medical columnist for The Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail, he lives in Vancouver, BC.