In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-01-05
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books

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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is a compassionate look at drug addiction by best-selling author and physician Gabor Mat. This insightful book explores the scientific and psychological causes of addiction, as well as the impact on the addicts treated at the Downtown Eastside Vancouver clinic where Mat is a physician. He widens the lens to address the larger societal problem - speaking also to the risks of the more "high-status" addictions, such as wealth, power, and sex. He boldly challenges the War on Drugs, proposing a more holistic, constructive set of alternatives. A riveting, debate-provoking book about an illness that reaches all levels of society, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts provides a much-needed glimpse of hope from an innovator who is taking on addiction with startling clarity, vision, and wisdom. Book jacket.

Author Biography

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.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xiv
Preface to the U.S. Editionp. xv
Foreword by Peter Levinep. xvii
Hungry Ghosts: The Realm of Addictionp. 1
Hellbound Trainp. 5
The Only Home He's Ever Hadp. 7
The Lethal Hold of Drugsp. 26
The Keys of Paradise: Addiction as a Flight from Distressp. 35
You Wouldn't Believe My Life Storyp. 49
Angela's Grandfatherp. 59
Pregnancy Journalp. 63
Beethoven's Birth Roomp. 77
There's Got to Be Some Lightp. 90
Physician, Heal Thyselfp. 105
Takes One to Know Onep. 107
Twelve-Step Journal: April 5, 2006p. 123
A Different State of The Brainp. 133
What Is Addiction?p. 135
From Vietnam to "Rat Park": Do Drugs Cause Addiction?p. 140
A Different State of the Brainp. 148
Through a Needle, a Warm, Soft Hugp. 156
Cocaine, Dopamine, and Candy Bars: The Incentive System in Addictionp. 166
Like a Child Not Releasedp. 173
How the Addicted Brain Developsp. 185
Their Brains Never Had a Chancep. 187
Trauma, Stress, and the Biology of Addictionp. 197
It's Not in the Genesp. 211
The Addiction Process and The Addictive Personalityp. 221
"A Void I'll Do Anything to Avoid"p. 223
Too Much Time on External Things: The Addiction-Prone Personalityp. 232
Poor Substitutes for Love: Behavioral Addictions and Their Originsp. 240
Imagining a Humane Reality: Beyond The War on Drugsp. 261
The Social Roots of Addictionp. 263
Know Thine Enemyp. 281
"Ignorant Fanaticism": The Failed War on Drugsp. 287
Freedom of Choice and the Choice of Freedomp. 301
Toward an Enlightened Social Policy on Drugsp. 313
Reducing Harmp. 330
The Ecology of Healingp. 347
The Power of Compassionate Curiosityp. 349
The Internal Climatep. 360
The Four Steps, Plus Onep. 374
Sobriety and the External Milieup. 385
A Word to Families, Friends, and Caregiversp. 400
There Is Nothing Lost: Addiction and the Spiritual Questp. 411
Memories and Miracles: An Epiloguep. 422
Postscriptp. 430
Appendicesp. 431
Fallacies of Adoption and Twin Studiesp. 431
A Close Link: Attention Deficit Disorder and Addicrionsp. 438
The Prevention of Addictionp. 443
The Twelve Stepsp. 446
Endnotesp. 450
Acknowledgmentsp. 477
Permissionsp. 479
Indexp. 481
About the Authorp. 491
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


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 mindsnotdependent on powerful substances—that is, how do we approach the healing of the many behaviour addictions fostered by our culture?

Excerpted from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Maté
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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