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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts : Close Encounters with Addiction
Based on Gabor Mate's two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver's skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically reenvisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach. Dr. Mate presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs throughout (and perhaps underpins) our society; not a medical "condition" distinct from the lives it affects, rather the result of a complex interplay among personal history, emotional, and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction. Simplifying a wide array of brain and addiction research findings from around the globe, the book avoids glib self-help remedies, instead promoting a thorough and compassionate self-understanding as the first key to healing and wellness. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts argues persuasively against contemporary health, social, and criminal justice policies toward addiction and those impacted by it. The mix of personal stories--including the author's candid discussion of his own "high-status" addictive tendencies--and science with positive solutions makes the book equally useful for lay readers and professionals.
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North Atlantic Books
January 05, 2010
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Excerpt from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate
No society can understand itself without looking at its shadow side. I believe there is one addiction process, whether it is manifested 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 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 twofold: 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 abuse. They have much in common with the society that ostracizes them. If they seem to 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.There is a host of questions to be considered. Among them:* What are the causes of addictions?* What is the nature of the addiction-prone personality?* What happens physiologically in the brains of addicted people?* How much choice does the addict really have?* Why is the "War on Drugs" a failure and what might be a humane, evidence-based approach to the treatment of severe drug addiction?* What are some of the paths for redeeming addicted minds not dependent on powerful substances--that is, how do we approach the healing of the many behaviour addictions fostered by our culture?