In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is Dr. Gabor Maté, M.D.,’s fourth best-selling book, published in 2008. When Dr. Maté remarked (and I paraphrase here) that 90% of his patients who are trapped in seriously self-destructive and addictive patterns are victims of sexual abuse and then posed the very relevant question: “Is the problem addiction or is it sexual abuse?” he gained a fan for life. This book was seminal in my process of identifying and defining Architects of Survival.

From “Dr. Maté, who for twelve years practiced medicine in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside—North America’s most concentrated area of drug use, begins by telling the stories of his patients, who, in their destitution and uniformly tragic histories, represent one extreme of the addictive spectrum. With his trademark compassion and unflinching narrative eye, he brings to life their ill-fated and mostly misunderstood struggle for relief or escape, through substance use, from the pain that has tormented them since childhood. He also shows how the behavioral addictions of society’s more fortunate members—including himself—differ only in degree of severity from the drug habits of his Downtown Eastside patients, and how in reality there is only one addiction process, its core objective being the self-soothing of deep-seated fears and discomforts. Countering prevailing notions of addiction as either a genetic disease or an individual moral failure, Dr. Gabor Maté presents an eloquent case that addiction—all addiction—is in fact a case of human development gone askew.”

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