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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction [Paperback]

Gabor Mate M.D.
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 6 2009 0676977413 978-0676977417

In this timely and profoundly original book, writer and physician Gabor Maté looks at the epidemic of various addictions in our society, tells us why we are so prone to them and outlines what is needed to liberate ourselves from their hold. Starting with a dramatically close view of Maté's drug addicted patients, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts weaves in stories of real people while providing a bold synthesis of clinical experience, insight and cutting-edge scientific findings. A haunting, compassionate and deeply personal examination of the nature of addiction.

Frequently Bought Together

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction + When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress + Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder
Price For All Three: CDN$ 49.71

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From Amazon

He would probably dispute it, but Gabor Maté is something of a compassion machine. Diligently treating the drug addicts of Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside with sympathy in his heart and legislative reform in mind can't be easy. But Maté never judges. His book is a powerful call-to-arms, both for the decriminalization of drugs and for a more sympathetic and informed view of addiction. As Maté observes, "Those whom we dismiss as 'junkies' are not creatures from a different world, only men and women mired at the extreme end of a continuum on which, here or there, all of us might well locate ourselves." In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts begins by introducing us to many of Dr. Maté's most dire patients who steal, cheat, sell sex, and otherwise harm themselves for their next hit. Maté looks to the root causes of addiction, applying a clinical and psychological view to the physical manifestation and offering some enlightening answers for why people inflict such catastrophe on themselves.

Finally, he takes aim at the hugely ineffectual, largely U.S.-led War on Drugs (and its worldwide followers), challenging the wisdom of fighting drugs instead of aiding the addicts, and showing how controversial measures such as safe injection sites are measurably more successful at reducing drug-related crime and the spread of disease than anything most major governments have going. It's not easy reading, but we ignore his arguments at our peril. When it comes to combating the drug trade and the ravages of addiction, society can use all the help it can get. --Kim Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"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

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Believe me, I HAVE read the book; I just don't have the time at the moment to write a detailed review. I'll attempt to do so at a later date.

In my work as a security officer I've worked around the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, with it's attendant social problems: homelessness or grossly inadequate housing, drug addiction, trafficing and human misery.

In part, I read this book in an attempt to understand the environment and circumstances of the people I encountered in my security function; mostly "removal of trespassers from private property".

From reading the book I feel I've acquired a much better understanding of the nature of addiction and the personal and social circumstances that tend to give rise to the condition.

The book deals with the subject in considerable depth, and while written for the lay person, this level of detail is not easily absorbed. It may require more than one, or several readings of certain parts and some reference to source materials to properly "digest" the information.

In order not to deter the potential reader, I should point out that the text is highly readable, in large part due to his very compassionate portrayal of the lives of some of his patients, and his frank admission of his own addictive behaviours, along with his ideas about their causes.

A very worthwhile read!
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
The experience of reading this book is like being bathed in wisdom and compassion. For a recovering addict like myself, it felt as if I had been given a wonderful gift. It presents a brilliantly clear and comprehensive view of the damaged spirit of the addict, for whom warped brain circuitry combined with emotional misery have reduced them to existing in a living hell. My sincere thanks to Mr. Mate for writing this amazing, sensitive, insightful book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hungry for Solutions Jan. 18 2011
Gabor Matés latest book effectively demolishes the belief that addictions arise from chemical imbalances, genetics, or bad choices.

As in his two previous books, Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder (1999) and When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress (2003), Maté situates human suffering in a social context, inviting a political discussion of how social relations affect human health.

Scattered Minds locates symptoms of ADD in the social neglect of children's needs and concludes,

"What begins as a problem of society and human development has become almost exclusively defined as a medical ailment."

When the Body Says No indicts "industrialized society along the capitalist model" as a source of toxic stress that "escalates as the sense of control diminishes" and causes physical and mental breakdown.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts condemns society for depriving human beings of what they need to thrive and then persecuting and punishing them for using drugs to relieve their pain.

All three books are well-written, engaging and brilliantly expose the fake science that pushes a pill for every ill.

While Maté situates human distress in the social realm, he seeks solutions in the personal realm.

In When the Body Says No the author concludes,

"In numerous studies of cancer, the most consistent identified risk factor is the inability to express emotion, particularly the feelings associated with anger." (p.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts Aug. 30 2010
As I nurse, I have studied and worked in the field of addictions.
This is by far the best approach I have ever seen to understanding these misunderstood afflictions. Despite recent research, it is still common to "blame the victim". I especially appreciate the author's revelations about his own illness. No "Ivory Tower" preaching, here!
I would love to see Dr. Mate's books become mandatory reading for fledgling medical, nursing, education, law enforcement and sociology students. FAH
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Squeamish April 21 2013
By YVRguy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dr Mate works in Vancouver Canada downtown east side. I live in Vancouver and know this area as most residents do , as an outsider. The understanding , empathy and recognition Dr Mate writes as he describes some very difficult episodes from long suffering people gives a view of the addict as a human being first and addict second. If you are in recovery or never had any addiction issues in your life , you may find your point of view on the problem and people within addiction changed once you read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read! Feb. 16 2010
By Ricky
This is a powerful book about addictions and public policy. It is aimed at what future generations will term the Dark Ages of attitudes toward addictions. What a lot we have to learn! But here is a very useful summary of evidence that our attitudes to Drug use are exacerbating one of the most serious problems we face. And how we could change for the better if we really cared.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
What can be said that has not already been stated, Dr. Mate won awards for this book and with good reason. It is so comprehensive, honest and fair. I recommend it for anyone who has drug/alcohol addicted family or friends. I am so grateful someone recommended it to me.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It all seems so simple but not.
Dr. Mate writes with such clarity of thinking and posts his research in truly layman's language. It has been a pleasure to stumble upon his work.
Published 26 days ago by pauline
5.0 out of 5 stars I am glad I read this book
Very honest and captivating writing. Dr. Gabor Mate has forever changed my perception of addiction and by extension, addicts themselves. I am glad I read this book.
Published 2 months ago by Dan
5.0 out of 5 stars The great Gabor Mate
This man knows the inside stuff we all wish we could put our finger on and put into words. He is an amazing mind and a compassionate heart... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Tom P.
5.0 out of 5 stars A good source of information
I have known Dr. Mare previously from his family practice and admired his work. Additionally, I am dealing with a family issue and this book was recommended to me from a friend as... Read more
Published 5 months ago by PM
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!
This is a very well-written book regarding a very interesting topic. Dr. Mate writes in a comprehensive way with a lot of insight in drawing connections to understanding addiction. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Micha Hogg
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Addictions is an emotional, controversial area, where there is often a lot of blaming and shaming. This book made me think much more about the issue, and to see persons affected... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jennifer Purdy
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
The book itself is excellent and revolutionary. The CD is easy to listen to as I drive to work. I am captivated and easily pick up where I left off.
Published 11 months ago by Lesley M. Llewellyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime.
I love Gabor and his books so much. His work is changing lives. His writing is so unbelievably lucid and heartfelt. This must be read by anyone struggling with addiction.
Published 12 months ago by Anonymous
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone touched by addiction
Dr Mate is articulate, compassionate, intelligent, and clearly educated. I learned more about the psych-social-biological roots of addiction here than in any AA room, doctor's... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ashley Moggggggggggg
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful read
This is my third copy. I loaned out my other copies and if the reader embraces the book, I tell him or her to keep it. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jan McAlpine
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