â€śHow would society change [...] if we recognized that people do not choose to be mentally ill or addicted?â€ť As a physician working in North Americaâ€™s most drug-plagued postal code, Dr. MatĂ© believes we all should ponder this question. The bestselling author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts has tangled paths with addicts from every walk of life: people who rely on theft, deceit, and prostitution to feed a relentless and tortuous habit. Each patient has led Dr. MatĂ© to develop a vital understanding: that addicts are as human as the rest of us. In an interview with AllTreatment.com, the renowned physician discusses addiction stigmas, North Americaâ€™s war on drugs, and his award-winning book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
AllTreatment: Dr. MatĂ©, thank you for making the time to do this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
Dr. Gabor MatĂ©: I’m a medical doctor and author. After twenty years in family practice and palliative care, for twelve years I worked in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, notorious as Canada’s poorest postal code and North America’s most concentrated area of drug use. Within a few square blocks’ radius, there are thousands of human beings dependent on injecting, ingesting or inhaling a multiplicity of substances such as heroin and other opiates, crystal meth, cocaine, and alcohol, not to mention cannabis and nicotine. For two of those years I was the physician at a detox facility associated with Insite, North America’s only legalized supervised injection site. In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts is my depiction of the people who inhabit that world, an inquiry into what drove them to their life-threatening habits, an examination of the biology and psychology of addictions in generalâ€”including my own addictive behaviorsâ€”and, finally, a look at the irrationality of the War on Drugs, so-called, and an exploration of saner ways of responding to the human tragedy of addiction, including substance dependence.
Read the full AllTreatment.com interview HERE.