- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Canada (January 6, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0676977413
- ISBN-13: 978-0676977417
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (443 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction 0th Edition
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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."
"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."
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Top Customer Reviews
This book, a thick tome that rewards careful perusal, starts as a form of group autobiography. Not that he claims his patients’ stories as his own. Having worked among Vancouver’s poorest, most despised citizens for a decade, he remains an outsider, returning to his suburban home nightly. Yet he knows these survivors’ stories well enough to write of them: "The misery is extraordinary in the drug gulag, but so is the humanity."
The gulag metaphor isn’t incidental. Not only have Maté’s clients disproportionately suffered incarceration (some, he says, have spent more than half their adult lives in jail), but many face extended imprisonment within their own minds. Most come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect. Many of Maté’s First Nations patients have generational trauma and Reservation Sickness back to the first white encroachments. Drugs cannot explain their behaviors.
Where these people come from, what tragedies and Sisyphean challenges formed their outlooks, proves inextricable from their addictions. Nearly all were broken before they touched drugs: "''I'm not afraid of dying,' a client told me. 'Sometimes I'm more afraid of living.'" This gives Maté his direct line into science. Transitioning from storytelling, Maté becomes an incisive researcher, distilling massively complex science into plain English without losing power.
At some pivotal moment in childhood development, Maté writes, addicts lack the unconditional love children require. It’s actually more difficult than that, but stripped to its rudiments, all people suffering long-term intractable addiction didn’t have loving guidance, as children, to control their emotions. Children, by definition, cannot handle stress independently. Our developing brains outsource self-control to responsible adults; if such adults aren’t around, our brains adapt accordingly.
Not for nothing, Maté observes, to many addicts compare the heroin rush to receiving a warm, lingering hug. The un-nurtured infant brain never develops the ability to guide itself through stress; fundamentally, that squalling child survives, desperate and scared, within every addict’s brain. The deprived infant becomes the terrified adult. "The dominant emotions suffusing all addictive behavior,” Maté writes, “are fear and resentment—an inseparable vaudeville team of unhappiness."
Don’t start feeling self-righteous, though, because you don’t wolf narcotics. Maté describes equitable structures in behavioral addictions, like abusive overeating, philandering, and thrill-seeking. Some of Maté’s most engaging chapters describe his own struggles with workaholism and binge-buying music CDs. "What seems non-adaptive and self-harming in the present was, at some point in our lives, an adaptation to help us endure what we had to go through then."
It’s difficult to read certain chapters without powerful twinges. Many women addicts he counsels, Maté writes, obsessively collect teddy bears among their drug-fueled squalor. Others have lost their children, but cannot bear to be parted from their small furry animals. Remember, he’s describing the poorest, most despised people in Canada, and all they want, amid the burglaries and self-mutilation and prostitution that subsidizes their drug dependency, is something to love.
This makes current approaches to drug prohibition doubly costly. We pay social costs to capture, prosecute, and imprison junkies, yes, and civil libertarians have long protested this lopsidedness. But the trauma of imprisonment compounds the conditions that created addicts’ problems to begin with. Nobody taught these people how to endure being alone with themselves, so what, let’s throw them in solitary? Who does that help?
As Maté describes it, criminal justice approaches become just plain mean. But more: we deny addicts social services, meaningful jobs, and basic medical care. This makes no sense, as Maté writes: "If our guiding principle is that a person who makes his own bed ought to lie in it, we should immediately dismantle much of our health care system." Yet somehow, we accept that further dehumanizing people already stripped of common humanity will help.
Addiction isn’t a story of “those people.” It’s the story of how we construct ourselves, and help construct other people, every day. Maté essentially paraphrases Thomas Aquinas when he writes: "In the final analysis, it's not the activity or object itself that defines an addiction but our relationship to whatever is the external focus of our attention or behavior." This means us.
This book brings to light a new way for me to view and think of addicts. It takes a new look at how we view addiction wrongly, as a medical problem and addresses some of the why's one may become an addict, ranging from early childhood emptiness, abuse, and so on. He backs up his claims with scientific evidence, research and the personal narratives of many addicts. I found the book to be a refreshing take on addiction and one that is quite insightful. It is well written, and was able to capture my full attention. I'd recommend it to all, but especially those who battle addiction, of any kind, whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex, work, wealth and so on; in addition, the many whom are casualties of loving and addict, be it spouse, child, family or friends.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Opened my view to addictions (before I thought - drugs, alcohol, smoking), reasons and how to communicate with addicted and not only people around.
There is no "brain disease" that causes people to become addicts, despite the claims from...Read more