The War on Drugs: Give Peace a Chance

The War on Drugs: Give Peace a Chance

June 15, 2009

By Kate Johnson

Dr. Gabor Maté wraps a tourniquet around a patient’s arm and instructs him to pump his hand until a vein bulges below his elbow crease. Then he instructs the addict to inject himself with heroin. “I had never imagined that my  medical career would lead me to assist an addict’s self-administration of an illicit psychoactive substance in a musty Downtown Eastside hotel,”  he writes in his book “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”. But “under the circumstances it was the best I could do for him”.

As a staff physician at the Portland Hotel and Insite, a residence and safe-injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Dr. Maté has dedicated his work to treating drug abuse and addiction. But unlike the soldiers in the War on Drugs, this soft-spoken crusader has rejected all “weapons”, preferring instead the tools of acceptance and caring. It is Peace, not War that will make a difference, he insists. “The pertinent question is not why the War on Drugs is being lost, but why it continues to be waged in the face of all the evidence against it,” he writes.

“Addictions are a response to a sense of emptiness,” Dr. Maté declared at a recent seminar in Toronto for people who work with addicts. Read More »

Teenage Addiction: It’s All About Love

Teenage Addiction: It’s all about Love

June 13, 2009

By Kate Johnson

“Addiction is not a response to the availability of a substance, it is a response to pain.” Best-selling author, addiction treatment expert and parenting guru Dr. Gabor Maté literally brings tears to my eyes as I sit in a room full of people who care for addicted teens – and adults – every day.

Although I am a medical journalist, accustomed to hearing presentations about addiction and its treatment, Dr. Maté’s words touch a raw nerve. For Dr. Maté, the root of all addiction, whether to drugs, or tobacco, or shopping or eating, lies in emptiness – and an attempt to fill the void. Dr. Maté believes all humans feel some degree of emptiness that they attempt to fill. He has not said it, but perhaps the emptiness begins when the umbilical cord is severed, and grows with every step we take away from the womb.Read More »