To heal addiction, you have to go back to the start... Featured on Russell Brand's podcast Under the Skin Dr Gabor Mate is one of the world's most revered thinkers on the psychology of addiction. His radical findings - based on decades of work with patients challenged by catastrophic drug addiction and mental illness - are reframing how we view all human development. In this award-winning modern classic, Gabor Mate takes a holistic and compassionate approach to addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, sex, money or anything ...
To heal addiction, you have to go back to the start... Featured on Russell Brand's podcast Under the Skin Dr Gabor Mate is one of the world's most revered thinkers on the psychology of addiction. His radical findings - based on decades of work with patients challenged by catastrophic drug addiction and mental illness - are reframing how we view all human development. In this award-winning modern classic, Gabor Mate takes a holistic and compassionate approach to addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, sex, money or anything self-destructive. He presents it not as a discrete phenomenon confined to a weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs through (and even underpins) our society; not as a medical 'condition', but rather the result of a complex interplay of personal history, emotional development and brain chemistry. Distilling cutting-edge research from around the world, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts avoids glib self-help remedies, instead promoting self-understanding as the first key to healing and wellness. Blending personal stories and science with positive solutions, and written in spellbinding prose, it is a must-read that will change how you see yourself, others and the world. 10th anniversary edition, updated with new chapter on the Opiod crisis
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All humans seek to eliminate physical and emotional pain, and no one suggests that seeking pharmaceutical relief for migraine headaches or deteriorated spinal disks evidences moral laxity; no one suggests that had we been morally stronger we would have endured our pain. Yet that is what society tells the drug and alcohol addicted. We deny addicts access to their "illegal" drugs on the rationale that they choose to take them, thereby bringing about their own dismal physical, social and legal circumstances. Mate asks why it is that society doesn't apply that same rationale (and policy) to people whose lifestyle choices bring about medical conditions such as broken legs, home and job related depression and anxiety, chronic bronchitis, coronary artery disease. He astutely observes, "No cardiologist, respiratory specialist, orthopedic surgeon, or psychiatrist would refuse treatment on the ground that the problem was self-inflicted." Mate cites the 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences study by Felitti et al. that two-thirds of adult addiction risk is attributable to severe childhood abuse or trauma. The greater the number of trauma exposure types (the study addressed seven), the greater the relationship to later addiction as well as other diseases/morbidities: smoking, obesity, depression, suicide, sexual behavior, STDs, ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. With addicts he treats in the Vancouver clinic, Mate comes to know their almost unbelievable stories of abuse and betrayal in early childhood; he shares some of this horror with the reader. That young children are at the mercy (or lack thereof) of adults and circumstances beyond their control is undeniable. A 5-year-old child bears no responsibility for the sexual predation of her uncle or the substance abuse of parents, violence against her mother, or parent suicides, etc. Young children have few coping mechanism for dealing with emotional pain, except to bury it from conscious awareness and sense that they are somehow deficient - possibly unworthy of love and protection. Society currently present drug addicts with only two choices: abstinence or prosecution. (If you think abstinence is a realistic option, be sure to watch the YouTube video, "Opiates and Tranquilizers," especially about forty minutes in when the brain's dopamine receptors are discussed.) Mate observes that we still do not have a systemic, evidence-based approach to achieving lasting abstinence (or cure, if you will). He characterizes society's approach: So long as society ostracizes the addict and the legal system does everything it can to heighten the drug problem, the welfare and medical systems can aim only to mitigate some of its effects.
What then is the policy alternative? Harm Reduction: adopting a "public heath" rather than "criminal" approach. To reduce harm "means making the lives of afflicted human beings more bearable, more worth living." Mate cites society's harm reduction approach to rheumatoid arthritis where we aim to reduce joint inflammation, prevent bone destruction, and reduce pain. Or take the case of incurable cancers where we seek to prolong life, control symptoms (including reducing pain) and maintain quality of life as much as possible.
The reality Mate asks us to accept is that some drug users ". . . are too deeply enmeshed in substance dependence for any realistic 'cure' under present circumstances. For now there is too much pain and too few internal and external resources available. If we accept scientific findings about the physiological basis of an existing drug addiction and jettison our moralistic posturings about free choice, we can adopt a Harm Reduction model for addiction.
What are the elements of a harm reduction approach to drug addiction? Mate identifies those used in Vancouver's innovative program:
? Diagnose and treat other medical syndromes that often co-occur with addiction: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Bi-Polar disease.
? Establish clean needle exchanges to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV.
? Provide basic medical care of addiction-related disease: abscesses, infections, etc.
? Provide therapy for the childhood trauma underlying drug use.
? Establish drug substitution including methadone and prescribed heroin.
? Provide a medically staffed detox facility with follow-up temporary housing that temporarily separates the person from his drug environment.
? Establish counseling that seeks to reunite the former addict with his/her family. Good intentions you might say, but too expensive! Turns out that our current punitive "war on drugs" (which has not reduced drug use or cured addiction) is costing U.S. tax payers a minimum of 100 billion dollars each and every year. Especially now with a heroin epidemic sweeping the nation, we must confront the foundational question: the relationship society creates between itself and its drug-addicted citizens. "The fundamental question is whether or not we recognize these people as human beings who are legitimately part of the social fabric and who deserve compassion and respect." If you want to take a moral stance on addiction, take the compassionate Harm Reduction approach just as we do with rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or coronary artery disease.
Oct 13, 2011
This book helped further my knowledge about addiction, and I admire the courage and honesty of the author and his subjects.
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