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4.7 out of 5 stars
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2008
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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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2009
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
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2013
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2010
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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 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.99)

Maté ignores industrial pollution as a cause of cancer and promotes the myth of "the cancer personality" - people who are more likely to get cancer because they repress their emotions, ignore their needs and put others first.

Even if there was evidence to back this myth (which there is not), these characteristics are not individual failings, but behaviors that society demands of all women and that employers demand of all workers.

In Hungry Ghosts, Maté questions why the war on drugs and drug addicts continues despite its total ineffectiveness and considerable harm. He avoids the logical conclusion that this war is not about drugs; it is the means by which the ruling class very effectively justifies its repressive military-prison system.

In all of his books, Maté questions why policy makers consistently ignore the research linking child deprivation and social stress with medical and social problems. He can't answer this question until he acknowledges the impact of class conflict; the ruling class can accumulate capital only by sacrificing the needs of the working class.

Matés books are commercially successful because they tap into popular awareness of social problems while avoiding the uncomfortable conclusion that social revolution is required to solve them.

The result is a liberal version of blaming the victim - society cannot be changed, so the individual must change. This regressive message is more insidious because it is hidden behind a progressive cover.

I recommend these books for the wealth of facts within them. But draw your own conclusions about the solutions we need.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2010
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2015
Let's take a look into who we are, pain is self medicated by many means. Survival is savage and cruel in this part of Vancouver. He tells is like it is. If you have a family member or a friend with addictions, this book is for you to read first. As a nurse this raw side of life, it changes you deeply. As a security guard working in and around them, I understand better. Yet, the former soldier who saw death up close and personal, fighting demons of a past that will not let go, I see now how life could have turned out, and lack of coping skills would have lead me if I had given up.

Thank you Dr. Mate for sharing the painful truth from this perspective. Looking from the outside in, others have no idea what it is all about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2013
Well writen. complex biology causes and effects were described in the fashion that were easier to come for hand for the layman.description of the bridge from addiction its causes and the sense of a lack of control of the attic and the reasons for that I will explain and help provide me a greater level of empathy and insight.for me, the explanation of the cascading chemical effects in the brain and throughout the body was very helpful in understanding the plight of an addict and the endless cycle that they are stuck in. I would recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2013
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. This book has a flow to it and a voice that has allowed me to be more compassionate and non-judgemental. With addictions, we all have our perspectives and opinions on types of people and what to do. This book has helped me to just be with the people I talk to and allow them their voice. I often refer to this book to keep perspective.
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