Gabor Maté

“Some people, a relatively small minority, are at grave risk for addiction if exposed to certain substances. For this minority, exposure to drugs really will trigger addiction, and the trajectory of drug dependence, once begun, is extremely difficult to stop. In the United States opiate relapse rates of 80 per cent to more than 90 per cent have been recorded among addicts who try to quit their habit. Even after hospital treatment the re-addiction rates are over 70 per cent. Such dismal results have led to the impression that opiates themselves hold the power of addiction over human beings. Similarly, cocaine has been described in the media as “the most addictive drug on earth,” causing “instant addiction.”

More recently, crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth) has gained a reputation as the most instantly powerful addiction-inducing drug — a well-deserved notoriety, so long as we keep in mind that the vast majority of people who use it do not become addicted. Statistics Canada reported in 2005, for example, that 4.6 per cent of Canadians have tried crystal meth, but only 0.5 per cent had used it in the past year. If the drug by itself induced addiction, the two figures would have been nearly identical. In one sense certain substances, like narcotics and stimulants, alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, can be said to be addictive, and it’s in that sense that I use the term.

These are the drugs for which animals and humans will develop craving and which they will seek compulsively. But this is far from saying that the addiction is caused directly by access to the drug. The reasons are deeply rooted in the neurobiology and psychology of emotions.”


Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Maté
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