Gabor Maté

“The addict is re-traumatized over and over again by ostracism, harassment, dire poverty, the spread of disease, the frantic hunt for a source of the substance of dependence, the violence of the underground drug world and harsh chastisement at the hands of the law — all inevitable consequences of the War on Drugs.

Studies on primates and other animals have also shown that low social status and being dominated enhance the risk of drug use, with negative effects on dopamine receptors. By contrast, after being housed with more subordinate animals, dominant monkeys had an increase of over 20 per cent of their dopamine receptors and less tendency to use cocaine.

The findings of stress research suggest that the issue is not control over others, but whether one is free to exercise control in one’s own life. Yet the practices of the social welfare, legal and medical systems subject the addict to domination in many ways and deprive her of control, even if unwittingly. In relegating the addict to the bottom of the social and moral scales and in our contemptuous rejection of her as a person, we have created the exact circumstances that are most likely to keep her trapped in pathological dependence on drugs. There is no island of relief, only oceanic despair.

“The War on Drugs is cultural schizophrenia,” says Jaak Panksepp. I agree. The War on Drugs expresses a split mindset in two ways: we want to eradicate or limit addiction, yet our social policies are best suited to promote it, and we condemn the addict for qualities we dare not acknowledge in ourselves. Rather than exhort the addict to be other than the way she is, we need to find the strength to admit that we have greatly exacerbated her distress and perhaps our own. If we want to help people seek the possibility of transformation within themselves, we first have to transform our own view of our relationship to them.”

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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