A human look at addiction

Thanks to new reader swansong for tipping me off to this video of Gabor Maté talking about addiction and the war on drugs:

Drawing on his experiences with drug addicted patients from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Dr. Gabor Mate discusses how the medical and legal systems are failing in the so called “war on drugs”.

It’s a long video (54 minutes) and I haven’t watched all of it yet, but what I have seen seems right. He talks about the real underlying elements that are part of addictive behavior — how the drug itself isn’t addictive by itself, but that there’s always some other factors, and how we all have our various addictions, taking it out of the realm of just those drugs.

Gabor is ADHD himself, which may make listening to him or reading his books difficult, yet lots of people are discovering his work and being affected by it.

Regarding his newest book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction Gabor says:

Addiction, or the capacity to become addicted, is very close to the core of the human experience. That is why almost anything can become addictive, from seemingly healthy activities such as eating or exercising to abusing drugs intended for healing. The issue is not the external target but our internal relationship to it. Addictions, for the most part, develop in a compulsive attempt to ease one’s pain or distress in the world. Given the amount of pain and dissatisfaction that human life engenders, many of us are driven to find solace in external things. The more we suffer, and the earlier in life we suffer, the more we are prone to become addicted.

The inner city drug addicts I work with are amongst the most abused and rejected people amongst us, but instead of compassion our society treats them with contempt. Instead of understanding and acceptance, we give them punishment and moral disapproval.

Reminds me somewhat of a Guitherism:

As anyone who has tried to quit smoking knows, dependence is hardest to overcome during difficult or stressful times. That must be why, when the government helps drug abusers quit, they arrest them and take away their job, possessions, and children.

It is that basis that leads to his condemnation of the war on drugs (particularly as it is waged and promoted by the U.S.).

“A riveting account of human cravings, this book needs to get into as many hands as possible. Maté’s resonant, unflinching analysis of addiction today shatters the assumptions underlying our War on Drugs.”
—Norm Stamper, former Seattle Chief of Police and author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing

On the heels of the extensive discussion we had recently on addiction, I think this may be an interesting viewpoint to explore.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A human look at addiction

  1. claygooding says:

    The government,media and television has brainwashed us for so long that in order to get your perspective realigned with the cosmos,you just gaotta fire one up,in the woods,where none of those guy’s are.

  2. denmark says:

    Will have to watch the video at another time however would like to say I related to the sentence, “… in a compulsive attempt to ease one’s pain or distress in the world”

    Personally I’ve fought hard against destructive habits to mask the pain from the very real and painful experiences in my own life. The denial of these painful experiences has really only been recognized by myself as of late. That, to me, is an important aspect of healing and where letting go can commence.

    I’m not crazy, child like or stupid, just have suffered a great deal and that has influenced my words and actions. Not looking for sympathy either.

  3. claygooding says:

    On a more cheerful note,as evidence starts showing up about how broke our country is:
    D.A.R.E. is scheduled for funding cut.
    I believe kap is right,now if they close down Drug Free America also it will remove one of the cartels most avid
    supporters,but then,the cartels aren’t broke and may keep it going.

  4. DavesNotHere says:

    Good find indeed. Dr. Gabor Mate works at “North America’s only supervised safe-injection site in Vancouver, Canada”. I’ve heard interviews with Dr. Gabor Mate on public radio recently that were great and I will watch this whole thing. We really could use a lot more like Dr. Gabor Mate speaking out like this on our side.

  5. GUy#1 says:

    Very interesting. War on drug addicts.

  6. miasmic effluence says:

    Addicts should be treated as a health problem not in the criminal justice system but like mentally ill people jail is usually the treatment for addicts.

  7. Tim says:

    TVO is great. Lots of good video on tvo.org about drug policy.

  8. claygooding says:

    According to the DEA blog,all street drug enforcement has been turned over to the FBI and the DEA is to investigate and enforce pharmaceutical abuse.

    01 Apr 2010, 20:41 PST, 3rd Edition

    Special Messages:

    We now know several of Osama’s desires from recent intell:

    * 1. Having noted DEA’s complete inability to neutralize either Afghan fields and the Mexicans cartels, Osama would like to exploit both for not one, but a series of back-to-back major terrorist/insurrection/revolution attacks on local infrastructures. The Mexican cartels have contact dealers and users lists spanning every race and social strata in our country. They will supply Osama with his operatives.

    * 2. Having noted the rise of anti-government internal terrorism in our country, Osama would like to exploit that issue.

    * 3. Having noted that elected leaders in the Republican Party share his desire to topple the current federal government under Barack Obama and weaken its ability to function, Osama would like to assist the Republican Party to any and every extent possible.

    Our recent intel tells us that Osama bin Laden is not planning any major 9/11-type overt explosions. Osama is now focused on recruiting racists, Christian apocalypts, anti-Democrat politicos, aggressive anti-abortionists, disgruntled intellectuals… anyone and everyone who has a real or imagined fear or hatred of the Obama Administration and the Congress being divided by the Republican Party.

    Osama is using drug money to provide funding and materiel to any groups or individuals that/who are impassioned to cause any level of damage or destruction in our country. Lord knows, Osama has ample resources to draw from, and particularly now that Obama’s recent visit to Afghanistan and meeting with Karzai has resulted in a cessation of poppy destruction. US Marines and Army personnel have been ordered, as under Bush, not to touch a single opium plant. The Karzai/British drug empire is to continue growing and producing worldwide heroin.

    Just as during WW2 we have only one option of hope. That option is the American criminal organizations that date back to the 1920’s. The Italian and Irish mafias which continue to control more city streets than local PD’s over the past 80 or so years, and can provide any and every illegal narcotics to more people than grocery stores and supermarkets supply bread and milk, may be our only and last hope of gaining real and usable intel of a subversive nature.

    DEA under its current overweight and over-aged leadership is useless. All anti-drug operations must be turned over to FBI. DEA must be limited to policing physicians and pharmacies. The street anti-narcotics work must now belong to FBI.

    When making my argument to FBI leadership recently I included as a reference a DEA Watch publication written by my predecessor. I would like to enter that publication for the record. My predecessor’s warning message published on Nov 28th, 2001, accurately predicted the rise in domestic (“home grown”) terrorism we are now faced with. As Osama’s money achieves its goal of propagandizing, arming and mobilizing our own citizen militias toward violent acts that will ultimately require limits on freedom, movement, and safety… all intended to reduce our international and domestic commerce and civil management. As our national inability to provide safety and prosperity to our own citizens decline, so will our international capabilities to achieve any goals whatsoever.

    Could this be true?

  9. Tim says:

    The best quote is at the very end of the video.

    The war on drugs is schizophrenia: when you make big money you’re a hero, when you make little money you’re a villain.

    Or something to that effect.

  10. Dave In Florida says:

    Could this be true?

    It was written april 1 by the dea !

  11. claygooding says:

    Take special notice that OBAMA ordered the halting of poppy destruction.

  12. claygooding says:


    It is where the above post came from and there is more there.

  13. Pete says:

    DEA Watch is a good place to go for a little perverse entertainment, or to assess the rank and file’s views on their leadership or to get an idea as to the extent of the bigotry and intolerance within the organization, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to get factual information. A lot of it is speculation from disgruntled employees.

  14. permanentilt says:

    The truth is, the things he says are so obvious. The only reason that we don’t use them is because of our addiction to punishment. Most do not want to help someone address the underlying causes of their behavior. They want a scapegoat. They want to blame and punish and be done with it. Not only does it satisfy a craving for revenge, but if it ruins a person then it opens a job for those who castigate. It also seems easier, though it probably isn’t and it certainly isn’t cheaper and it certainly doesn’t reduce crime, it only fuels it. But the big joke is WHO CARES? More recividism = higher arrest statistics = people feeling “safer” = reelectability. We can only hope that this bubble is finally bursting (even if only a little bit).

    My favorite quote was when he said “Please people, if you are going to clap for every smart thing I say, you will be applauding the whole speach” ROFL!

  15. claygooding says:

    I realize that,but the posting about the president stopping poppy destruction is very telling. And releasing it before the government can put any spin on it seemed important,to me.

  16. denmark says:

    According this video, which I stopped at 23 minutes, I’m screwed. Apparently they do not take into account will power, past life experiences, or karmic debt. (sorry to all you agnostics or coreligionist).

    My words: The addict is only seeking an aversion to pain, whether mental or physical.

    The first five / six minutes of the video was familiar to me, I almost stopped it.

    His words: they have every reason to need pain relief for a lifetime.
    My words: Now, that is one of the most intelligent comments I’ve ever heard.

    My “addiction” is nicotine.

    His words: the substance by itself cannot induce the addiction.

    His words: The right environmental conditions , presence of an emotionally involved, consistently non stressed care giver.
    My words: Would gamble to say not many people have had that in their lives.

    His words: Emotional states of the care giver have an impact on the child.
    My words: Sorry, that’s a huge duh for me. It’s so obvious to anyone who knows how to think that this would be a factor in any childs life.

    What now? Parent Police?

    So, what was your point in sharing this swansong?

  17. Nick Z says:

    Nothing would be addictive if there wasn’t so much poverty and competition over land and resources. I’m psychologically addicted to cannabis because its the only thing that helps me overcome the lousy state of mind that living in poverty and deprivation put me into. If I could just escape the personal hell that poverty and deprivation put me into, I doubt very much I would be so psychologically addicted to cannabis, and that is straight from the heart.

  18. swansong says:

    “My words: Sorry, that’s a huge duh for me. It’s so obvious to anyone who knows how to think that this would be a factor in any childs life.

    What now? Parent Police?

    So, what was your point in sharing this swansong?”

    I think it might be more interesting to hear why YOU think I shared it.

    While the info contained in the vid may be a “duh” for you…there are many for whom this info will be a fresh perspective on an age old issue.

    Indeed if addictions are tied to early childhood brain development and relationships with primary caregivers then perhaps people can begin looking at addictions, ALL ADDICTIONS, as coming from a common place, and common to all races, creeds and colors. Furthermore I hope that the info will make people realize that persecuting and prosecuting drug users, especially drug addicts, is completely counter productive to the desired goal.

    Perhaps the most important reason for sharing info like this is to properly focus the debate where it belongs…in the realm of science and medicine. NOT crime and punishment.

    And as far as your final (I assume, tongue in cheek) question…No…not parent police…but if we took the billions poured into the w.o.d. and instead spent it providing parenting classes and a grounding in early childhood development to new and soon to be parents…the benefits received in the first 10-20 years, imo, would be staggering in the extreme.

    Why is it that I need a license to drive…to fish…to hunt…to marry…to run a business…etc, etc, etc… But any 2 shmucks with the proper equipment can create a human life that could very well end up being an enormous drain on society…or worse? Not to mention the physical and emotional hardship that human may experience during it’s life.

    Parent police? If I HAD to choose between drug police and parent police…my money would be with the parent police. Don’t kid yourself, we already have parent police, only as it is now they only step in after the damage has been done. Fat lot of good that does…but highly typical of our less than proactive society.

Comments are closed.