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The Shocking Truth of What Causes Addiction

By Sam Lawrence on Tuesday September 6th, 2016

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What is Really Behind Addiction?

Ever notice how frequently the word “addict” is used? Just do a Google News search on the word and you’ll be shocked at just how often it’s used in a headline. Articles are plastered with mentions of drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts, food addicts, shopping addicts, work addicts and internet addicts. “These people” are painted as out-of-control and often menaces to society who need to be stopped, jailed, medicated or otherwise cut off.

But what if those diseased people weren’t sick at all? What if you suddenly realized you were one of them? Well, that’s what happened to me. In preparation for this podcast, I realized I’m an addict. I’m an addict who comes from other addicts, who has passed it onto my kids, too. I’m constantly looking for a way to not be with myself, a way to avoid the pain that I have, of not having meaningful bonds.

What if those diseased people weren’t sick at all? What if you suddenly realized you were one of them?What if those diseased people weren’t sick at all?

A Different Way of Looking at Addiction

Physician and best-selling author, Gabor Maté, shares the shocking truth about what causes addiction and the things we can do to address the problem. What’s cool about Gabor is that he avoids quick-fix thinking when he tackles things like addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall. Rather, he shines lights on the often uncomfortable truths that live at the root of these things.

Born in Hungary, Gabor survived the Holocaust, became a doctor and worked for over 20 years with patients with hard-core drug addictions, mental illness and HIV before writing In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, When the Body Says No, Scattered Minds, and Hold on to Your Kids (you can learn more on his website drgabormate.com).

Gabor avoids quick-fix thinking when he tackles things like addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall.Gabor avoids quick-fixes when tackling addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall.

Our brief but information-packed conversation even helped me understand why I love podcasting. These conversations  are sort of accelerated intimacy that create quick bonds with each person I talk to and anything that helps me bond, lessens the painful void I have from having that very thing growing up.

I remember hearing somewhere that the purpose of life is to create meaningful connections with others. After this conversation with Gabor, I know you’ll have a new point of view of exactly why that’s so important and how and why we as individuals, families and cultures have strayed so far from it.

Addiction Specialist Dr Gabor Mate.


Read More:

The Opposite Of Addiction is Connection

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

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Words By Sam Lawrence

Originally posted on Grow Big Always



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16 Responses to The Shocking Truth of What Causes Addiction

  1. Dr Mate is brilliant! I just finished reading In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts a few days ago and found it to be deeply moving, comprehensive and quite enlightening. We truly need to move past the old broken meme of “the war on drugs” (which is really a war on addicts) and embrace more compassionate humane methods of treatment and take a lesson from Portugal if we want to help people heal. Thank you for being part of this important conversation! 🙂

      • Hi Dowsergirl, the best way for your question to be answered would be for you to watch the video; “The Root Cause of Addiction” also on Uplift Connect-see sidebar-as it explains the Portugal model. Very heartwarming and inspiring!

  2. A lot of people think of addicts as people who have contracted this “affliction” as a result of careless or stupid behaviour, where as many addicts ( it’s morphine, in my case ) became addicted to the prescription medicine they were taking at the time. I’m on 150mg of morphine every day – enough to kill a person with no tolerance, & yet, ii’m still treated like a social pariah. Also, if I find myself in a town or city other than my home,even doctors treat me like a junkie criminal who’s trying to obtain this medication through false pretences – even though I always have a letter from my regular G. P. explaining my medical condition & what meds i’m on. this has benn made infinatly more difficult since recent changes to medicare & the bulk billing system.
    What I have learned about addiction – opiate addiction anyway ) is that the drug affects the long term user very differently to a patient, who might receive a few doses over a couple of days & then stop. For example; a one off user will most likely experience nausia, severe tiredness & an aversion to eating. In my case – if I run out, I will experience nausia, lethargy, depression e.t.c. As a professional trawlerman, without my morphine, I wouldn’t be able to function as a

    normal human being. By the same token – when I’m not working or at sea, I dramatically reduce my dose – often going a few days without it, & once back at sea or doing preparation duties in order to put to sea, I sometimes find that I need 1 1/2 pills or even two – it usually avaeages out to about one per day but not allowing myself to become used to the same dose every day, b y chiopping & changing my dose by + or – around 50mg per day, I dont seem to suffer the worst of withdrawls on those times I go without for a few days – and – beleive me – I’ve been through that hell & it’s not a thing I’d wish on my worst enemy. It seems to me that education (once again) is the key.
    An interesting footnote is that in the last 12 months or so,patients are restricted to the amount of over-the-counter codeine preperations they can purchase – once again getting treated as an untrustworthy, hedonistic junkie. And whilst I’m not fully versed as to the reasons why there haqs been such a dramatic upsurge in the consumption of these o.t.c. codeine meds, I’d bet my next pay cheque that at least 75% (probebly more ) are self medicating for depression or some other, equally debilitating psychological condition – because . . . .as it happens, opiates work really well as an anti-depressant & restricting its availability will only send these people to look elsewhere & often buying somethingthat may be way too potent – often with tragic results. Thank you

    Peter Joseph.

    • You are right. I was an addict who put 90 mgs of morphine in my morning coffee for 13 years. I worked, I kept my job, I loved my wife and daughter and I functioned like that for a long time. I didn’t need it for physical pain. I used to it to escape mental and emotional pain. I now face that pain each day with no crutch and it hurts. I have no friends to share this with and it’s very difficult, but I’m getting there.

    • your story gives me strength…..addiction took my life once, it is a problem……i see no reak relief fron it’s thorns …..it has weakened my grip on a reality that most civillians experience……it is a dead end…..it’s all i can do to remain honest…addiction has it’s grip on my life….i feel you….in a big way…

  3. I disagree with his ‘theory’ that addiction is caused by child abuse. I was never abused as a child. i had a very loving home and extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles etc). I was very loved my whole life. I have a wonderful sister and brother. So I disprove this child abuse addiction theory. How narrow minded this thinking is. I have physical pain. I hurt every single day of my life, and I’ve been this way ever since I can remember. (age 4). I am not insecure, I am not feeling ‘unloved’, I an not needy, or wanty or desirous of an ‘escape’ or power. I call B.S. on this ‘theory’. I wish researchers and physicians would look deeper into the people who use drugs.

    • He might not have touched on your problem because yours isn’t an issue of mental or emotional pain or you could be in denial. It could simply be physical pain however, you took something for that pain and became dependent. If it makes you feel good emotionally then there are reasons for that which you may have not explored. Growing up with physical pain can affect you emotionally believe it or not. If it has affected the way you live your life, no amount of love can fill that void and no amount of morphine will change that.

  4. He makes a lot of sense. I just wish he would focus more on how to turn it all around. That came at the end but I’d like to hear more about what people actually do that helps them to break free of drugs. Once I thought I couldn’t function without drugs for mental illness that started in my late 40’s. I did serious soul searching that brought me out of that 8 year period of depression and the prescription drugs meant to control it. Finding a deep sense of honesty about everything I thought and felt was key. Working the 12 steps freed me from incessant guilt and the resulting fear. I became unaffected by other people’s opinions of me. I did learn as he said that everything I needed to be calm and assured was within me constantly. The more calm I became, the calmer my experience became. I literally learned that I did have more control than I thought over my experience but not so much over other people’s experience. However, when I maintain my own sense of inner peace, I don’t encounter others who are in an agitated state as often either, but if I do, I react less to them. Its really pretty awesome when that switch finally gets turned and you become as they say, “the captain of your ship”. Not that you don’t get tested now and then about it. It is a discipline to stay connected to your true self. I was able to quit using all drugs prescribed to me 9 years ago and stay balanced. I believe that a lot of what I experienced was due to an abusive relationship which I left at the same time.

  5. Also worth mentioning how sugar has be gradually increased into our diets over the last few hundred years. its now added to near everything in the supermarket. sugar is very addictive and not needed in our diets. From birth our mothers sugar intake will be passed onto her child! Sugar is a substance of abuse and often leads to a natural form of addiction. “Food addiction” seems plausible because brain pathways that evolved to respond to natural rewards are also activated by addictive drugs. so my point is that addiction may be imprinted in our brains from birth, which then may be more easily evoked. for more detail read: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/

  6. I think it’s simplistic to say that all addicts have been abused as children.
    Put it another way – not all children who are abused become addicts.
    why are there children in the same family with no abuse on any level, just caring parents doing the best they can and one child becomes an addict and the other doesn’t.
    I’m so tired of parents being blamed for EVERYTHING that happens to their children. Where does awareness, taking responsibility and making healthy choices come into this scenario of addict as victim of childhood abuse?

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