The Addiction Philosophy of Dr. Gabor Mate
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The Hungarian physician known to the world as Dr. Gabor Mate is famous for his work with inner city addicts at the Palliative Care Unit which is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is quite distinguished in the field of addictions research and the work that he carried out with the addicts in BC is detailed in his famous book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
Where did Dr. Mate come from?
Gabor Mate was born in Budapest, Hungary during the Holocaust and lost most of his family during the final days of World War Two. When young Gabor was 12, he emigrated with what was left of his family to Canada. During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s, Gabor was your average student radical like most young people (hippies) back then.
After obtaining a degree from the University of British Columbia, Mate went on to teach English and Literature in high school for a few years until he deiced to pursue his dream job of becoming a physician. He ran a private family practice on the eastside of Vancouver after he completed medical school and also was medical coordinate at the Palliative Care Institute where he worked to help inner city adolescent overcome their addictions. It was his work here that inspired his bestselling book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
Gabor Mate’s personal style and philosophy when treating addictions
The biggest factor that makes Dr. Mate stand out as unique is the way he maintains a personal human connection with the young patients that he works with. How does he do this? He does this simply by relating their addiction issues to his own struggles with ADHD as well as his own shopping addiction. While these two may pale in comparison to that of drug and alcohol addiction, Mate personally believes that the underlying issue is always the same.
Through the various clinical research studies that Dr. Mate took part in, he made the hypothesis that an individual’s likelihood of addiction went as far back as the environment in their mother’s womb all the way up to five years of age. He then goes on to relate this to an addict’s inability to produce neurochemicals, such as dopamine and endorphins, which enable us to feel pleasure as well as provide relief from pain.
Gabor speculated that a person’s inability to produce these two neurochemicals was what led to problems handling stress and forming attachments. He also believed it had roots in abuse and lack of love during the formative years of the addict’s early life through their adolescent years. This is what leads them to self-medicate on drugs, alcohol, shopping, etc. as they get old; because the addiction is a way to provide the neurostimulation that they would have received if they had been properly emotionally nurtured while they were growing up.
A Definition of Addiction
Dr. Mate simply defines as addiction being a behavior that seeks to find a temporary relief in order to satisfy a deep craving. However the temporary relief, or “quick fix” almost always has negative consequences that are associated with it, otherwise addictions would not be a problem. Also, the person who is addicted will not have the willpower to give up the thing that they are most addicted to, that is until they get to the bottom of what is causing the addiction and deal with it firsthand.
Gabor also adds in an interview with Time that when he refers to addictions he is referring to does not just refer to substances. In his studies, he believes sex, gambling, shopping, or even work can be ways of engaging the same brain circuits which are also our body’s inner “rewards “system when we do something that satisfies us.
In another interview with CBS, Dr. Mate went on to promote his more compassionate approach to dealing with addictions. Rather than ask “why the addiction?” he begged the question “why the pain?”
Apparently Dr. Gabor Mate’s compassionate approach stirred up enough controversy that the institute where he worked with the inner city adolescents in British Columbia was almost shut down by Canada’s conservative government. It was the Canadian Supreme Court that intervened and voted to leave the institute open because it would be against those who were suffering from addictions civil liberties to shut something down that was helping them so much. It would also just bring on more suffering on the part of the addicts. This just begs another question as to why a more loving approach to treating addiction is so controversial when we grow up hearing that “love conquers all”.
- E Bishop Wooten
The Liberal Conservative