In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

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by Gabor Mate
     
 

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Based on Gabor Maté’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. Maté presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an

Overview

Based on Gabor Maté’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. Maté 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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781583944202
Publisher:
North Atlantic Books
Publication date:
06/28/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
520
Sales rank:
66,043
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

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?


From the Trade Paperback edition.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"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

Meet 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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
CJ88 More than 1 year ago
I won't try (too hard) to summarize, since not really possible. However, a fascinating mix of personal encounters with hard-core addicts, self-discovery on Mate's own part, brain science, psychology and philosophy, and some spiritualism as well. Some politics too. I can't imagine a more definitive writing on addiction in general, addictions of all kinds, specifically both "substance" and "behavioral." For Mate, the addiction is behavioral, and his honesty is riveting, the kind of honesty seldom encountered. Mate's a champion of "know thyself," and he knows himself and that makes his writing "authentic." Believe it. A concern for "authenticity" is at the heart of this book, and so...it must be a must read. It's utterly brilliant; I'm giving it a rave review. (And policy-makers ought be forced to read it--over and over if necessary, until they get it. The so-called "war on drugs" is insanity. [My words, not Mate's, but he's not got use for it.]) Most striking perhaps is Mate's compassion, in combination with his honesty--not only regarding himself but also the "junkies" (which term I use advisedly) he regularly sees and treats in his capacity as physician on the east side of Vancouver. He writes from street experience, and interestingly, writes of discovering authenticity among those he treats. Personally, I haven't a doubt about that. Those he writes of are the real down-and-outers, the ones who've been to hell and come back, or not. Too many never come back. There's no pop psychology, no promise of cure, no Pollyanna nonsense. This is not a pop book but a serious examination of the causes and effects of addictions. Mate fills us in on the latest neuroscience, the studies that have been done and are being done to try and understand how addiction happens, when it's likely to happen and possibly how more seriously to treat them. Science has made significant progress that goes largely unreported in major media. (Not least for political reasons. Again, my words, not Mate's, though I think he would agree.) Mate doesn't walk past the junkie but cares for her. His compassion seemingly unlimited, which is not to say he--as he also confesses--hasn't and doesn't sometimes think of them the way most all of us do--with irritation, even disgust, and with an excess of unwarranted judgment. This book, as noted, is also Mate's exploration of his own beliefs, attitudes and feelings toward his patients. He alludes to and cites countless thinkers, from Dostoevsky (his fav, and mine) to Carl Rogers to Buddha. Mate is himself, I think, on a par with Rogers, Erikson, et al. If you're looking for an easy read, don't look here. If you're looking for a rewarding read, this is the one to get on the topic of addiction and on getting to know oneself too. It is, or rather can be, a personal guide if one choose to make it so. I discovered myself doing just that as I read. One could on and on, which is why the book can't really be summarized, only fully read. I ought note that Mate does offer help for any reader in the midst of one or more addictions. Help, not cures. Simply reading the book is helpful, but he offers more in the end, and I think--based on my own experience--that what he offers is right. That is, not any simple, let alone easy, cure, but some hope and some direction, a few ways to go, depending on the individual. That sounds right to this reader, who pr
SalJune More than 1 year ago
This book starts out as a riveting read. Dr. Mate writes beautifully, combining personal vignettes with scientific knowledge to give the reader a "feel for addictions" of all sorts: drugs, hoarding, power, gambling,and others. His basic premise is, "Brain development in the uterus and during childhood is the single most important biological factor in determining whether or not a person will be predisposed to substance dependence and to addictive behaviors of any sort, whether drug-related or not." He writes not to bash caregivers, but to encourage caregivers to do their best. While midway the book looses some momentum, it again gains momentum when Dr. Mate addresses the value of (1) decriminalizing drugs (not to be confused with legalizing drugs) and (2) controlling the dispensation of drugs.He shows the reader how substance dependent adults can be spared extreme misery, death and disease by harm reduction measures such as methadone treatment, needle exchange programs, and supervised injection sites. Altogether this book is an eye-opener!
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Brenda76 More than 1 year ago
Dr. Mate knows addiction very well, and has laid out the causes and manifestations simply and elegantly with real-life examples. He understands addiction is a behavior some people struggle with a great deal, whether to drugs, sex, or just about anything. Wonderful read - starts you thinking about yourself even if you never thought you had an addiction.
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