Dr. Gabor Mate is the staff doctor at the Portland Hotel, a drug treatment facility and residence in Vancouver’s Lower Eastside. His book begins with a description of his clinical experiences treating people with life threatening drug addictions, and then moves to an exploration of the root of addiction in infant brain development. Mate draws a parallel between his patients – who exist with extreme and socially unacceptable drug dependency and others in our society who live with less obvious addictions to food, sex, gambling, tobacco, work, shopping etc. His premise is that people use these habits to comfort themselves as a form of self medication to counter lack of endorphins and dopamine in the brain.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
This was a sad and yet compassionate book. We were struck by the honest way Dr. Mate wrote about his interactions with his patients, as well as his own shopping addiction. He was very accepting of the frailty of others, as well as his own shortcomings. His summary of research of addiction and the brain was clearly framed, interesting and understandable. We hope that his activism will continue to shed light on the origin and nature of substance abuse and the need to treat the void that addiction is intended to fill.