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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

July 19, 2010

Dr. Gabor Mate works as the staff physician at the Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver, BC, with a practice consisting of patients with many addictions. His books and video taped lectures are amazing in the insight they provide for the effect of various drugs on the human brain, and why they are so addictive in some people. His most recent book is what I used for the title of this blog. Dr. Mate discusses his book in a talk at Reed College in Portland, Oregon which is available at The talk is almost 1:45 minutes long, but well worth watching if you are interested in discovering why addiction is an issue we should be concerned with as a society.

Dr. Mate points out in another interview that addictions are all about reducing stress. He expresses his view that Adverse Childhood Experiences play a substantial role in addiction with the following statement.

“There was a number of large-scale studies in the United States done by very brilliant researchers called the ACE studies, A-C-E, adverse childhood experiences. An adverse childhood experience is a child being abused or violence in the family or a parent being jailed or extreme stress of poverty or a rancorous divorce, a parent being addicted, alcoholic and so on.

When it comes to addiction, these effects are addictive, so that if a child has a number of these adverse childhood experiences, his chance of becoming a drug addict later on, or any kind of an addict, go up exponentially. So a male child with six such adverse childhood experiences has a 4,600 percent increase in the risk of him becoming an injection-using substance addict than a male child with no such experiences—in other words, a forty-six-fold increase in the risk.

And interestingly enough, those adverse childhood experiences also exponentially increase the risk of cancer and high blood pressure and heart disease and a whole range of other diseases, as well as suicide, of course, and early death. In other words, there’s a real connection between early childhood adversity and how a person lives their lives and a later appearance of addiction and diseases, physical and of course mental illnesses at the same time.

And if we don’t take this into account in medicine—most of the time, people are not asked about these things in doctors’ offices, and they’re not explored. They’re not encouraged to explore their childhoods and the kind of impact that the childhood has on their adult behaviors.”

At Chugachmiut, we believe we need to address our historical and childhood traumas in order to heal our Villages. We also believe that society as a whole needs this type of healing as well. While I realize that this blog will not be well read, this information needs to get out to those who are suffering from the childhood traumas that they received so their healing can begin. Therapy can help us deal with the stresses that drive us to addictions, whether drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or food.

And the next generation needs from us is, in the words of Dr. Gabor,  “the presence of a non stressed, emotionally available, consistently available parenting caregiver.” We need to reduce our stress in order to fulfill the non stress requirements our children need.

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