The Hungry Ghost: A Biopsychosocial Perspective on Addiction, from Heroin to Workaholism:
Based on the book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.
For twelve years Dr. Maté was the staff physician at a clinic for drug-addicted people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where he worked with patients challenged by hard-core drug addiction, mental illness and HIV, including at Vancouver Supervised Injection Site. In his most recent bestselling book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, he shows that their addictions do not represent a discrete set of medical disorders; rather, they merely reflect the extreme end of a
continuum of addiction, mostly hidden, that runs throughout our society. In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts draws on cutting-edge science to illuminate where and how addictions originate and what they have in common.
Contrary to what is often claimed, the source of addictions is not to be found in genes, but in the early childhood environment where the neurobiology of the brain’s reward pathways develops and where the emotional patterns that lead to addiction are wired into the unconscious. Stress, both then and later in life, creates the predisposition for addictions, whether to drugs, alcohol, nicotine, or to behavioural addictions such as shopping or sex.
Helping the addicted individual requires that we appreciate the function of the addiction in his or her life. More than a disease, the addiction is a response to a distressing life history and life situation. Once we recognize the roots of addiction and the lack it strives (in vain) to fill, we can develop a compassionate approach toward the addict, one that stands the best chance of restoring him or her to wholeness and health.
Illness and Health in an Insane Culture:
Based on The Myth of Normal: Illness and Health in an Insane Culture, the title of Dr. Maté’s next book, expected April, 2022.
Half of North American adults suffer from chronic illness – a fact Western medicine views largely in terms of individual predispositions and habits.
Western medicine imposes two separations, neither tenable scientifically. First, it separates mind from the body, largely assuming that most chronic illnesses have nothing to do with people’s emotional and psychological experiences. And yet, a large and irrefutable body of research has clearly shown that physiologic and behavioural functioning of human beings can be understood only if we integrate our body functions with those of the mind: functions such as awareness, emotions, our interpretations of and responses to events, and our relationships with other people. Second, Western practice views people’s health as separate from the social environment, ignoring social determinants of health such as class, gender, economic status, and race. Such factors, in reality, are more important influences on health and longevity than individual predispositions and personal factors such as genes, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and so on.
This talk shows how a society dedicated to material pursuits rather than genuine human needs and spiritual values stresses its members, undermines healthy child development and dooms many to chronic illness, from diabetes to heart disease, from autoimmune conditions to cancer.