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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Close Encounters with Addiction
Written by: Gabor Maté
Narrated by: Daniel Maté
Length: 16 hrs and 18 mins
5 out of 5 stars (124 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this timely and profoundly original book, best-selling writer and physician Gabor Maté looks at the epidemic of addictions in our society, tells us why we are so prone to them and what is needed to liberate ourselves from their hold on our emotions and behaviours. 

For over seven years Gabor Maté has been the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and harm reduction facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. His patients are challenged by life-threatening drug addictions, mental illness, Hepatitis C or HIV and, in many cases, all four. But if Dr. Maté’s patients are at the far end of the spectrum, there are many others among us who are also struggling with addictions. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, work, food, sex, gambling, and excessive inappropriate spending: what is amiss with our lives that we seek such self-destructive ways to comfort ourselves? And why is it so difficult to stop these habits, even as they threaten our health, jeopardize our relationships, and corrode our lives? 

Beginning with a dramatically close view of his drug addicted patients, Dr. Maté looks at his own history of compulsive behaviour. He weaves the stories of real people who have struggled with addiction with the latest research on addiction and the brain. Providing a bold synthesis of clinical experience, insight, and cutting-edge scientific findings, Dr. Maté sheds light on this most puzzling of human frailties. He proposes a compassionate approach to helping drug addicts and, for the many behaviour addicts among us, to addressing the void addiction is meant to fill. 

I believe there is one addiction process, whether it manifests in the lethal substance dependencies of my Downtown Eastside patients, the frantic self-soothing of overeaters or shopaholics, the obsessions of gamblers, sexaholics and compulsive internet users, or in the socially acceptable and even admired behaviours of the workaholic. Drug addicts are often dismissed and discounted as unworthy of empathy and respect. In telling their stories my intent is to help their voices to be heard and to shed light on the origins and nature of their ill-fated struggle to overcome suffering through substance use. Both in their flaws and their virtues they share much in common with the society that ostracizes them. If they have chosen a path to nowhere, they still have much to teach the rest of us. In the dark mirror of their lives we can trace outlines of our own.
(from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts)

©2011 Gabor Maté (P)2018 Vintage Canada

What listeners say about In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

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My mentor Gabor Maté

Loved this book. This is definitely one of those books that everyone should read. we need more people like him. Addiction touches all of us.

5 people found this helpful

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Very informative

The stories the author shared (of his own and his clients) provided me with much-needed insight for understanding addictive behaviors of myself and others. Will continue to listen to this title

3 people found this helpful

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excellent insight into addiction

excellent insight into addiction and a powerful argument for the harm reduction model. captivating and inspiring.

3 people found this helpful

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Hungry Ghosts is a must read

Daniel does a fantastic read of his dads book on addiction.

The book chronicles Gabor’s time as a physician in the downtown east side of Vancouver and includes much insight into the lives of addicts and the underlying physiology and life circumstances that drive addiction.

Gabor clearly sees the humanity in his patients and lends a compassionate viewpoint to a group of people who are often marginalized in our society.

I believe that this is a must read/listen for anyone who wants to better understand their own minds as well as the minds of those afflicted by addiction.

Gabor’s telling of addicts stories and sharing of related neuroscience manages to shed light on a topic that people tend to ignore or misunderstand.

I Highly recommend you read it!

3 people found this helpful

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Fantastic!

I was assigned to read this book for a course in Health studies and I have since listened to it multiple times. Dr.Gabor Mate explains why drug user can not simply “stop taking drugs”. He articulates how complex the lives of drug user are and uses the social determinants of health as a basis for explaining how drug user become addicts. Overall FANTASTIC! A must read for anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by drug addiction. This book is the perfect balance between science anecdotal evidence . Mate clearly knows what he’s talking about and does so in a way that is incredibly engaging.

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everyone should read

such helpful information for everyone. loved all the different types of addictions, the root causes, the support, how individuals & society & govt can help. very real and applicable information.

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Eye Opening

Very interesting information presented well. A must read for anyone working in the healthcare industry.

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Great book!

Addictions are more than just bad choices, it a way for anyone to manage pain, known or unknown.

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This ranks up with the book Alcoholics Anonymous.

As an addict, i feel i speak with some authority in saying "not since the titular book by the Fellowship that kicked off the recovery movement have we seen a book with similar authority abd explanatory power regarding the disease of addiction. My congtulations Dr. Mate.

i recommend this book highly for anyone looking to develop their understanding of addiction. a very sensitive read.

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Very technical and focused on drugs

I bought the book thinking it would give a broader overview. The first few chapters were decent yet after that, I had to force myself to read the rest.

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  • Stacey
  • 2019-08-16

Gabor should have been the narrator

I am a big fan of Gabor's work and have had the privilege of seeing him speak in a small group setting. I love his voice and am very disappointed that he is not the narrator. It changes everything for me. I'm only on the first hour and debating whether to return it and head to youtube to watch his talks and interviews instead. His son has a fine voice it's just not what I was expecting or wanting. I'm losing interest in listening. Gabor's energy comes through his voice. It calms my nervous system.
I would love Gabor to narrate any future audio books.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-07-17

Eye Opening, paradigm shifting

This book is very powerful, and I can only hope the masses digest what he is saying, as well as government leaders too. Gabor brilliantly illuminates the true nature of addiction, and provides keen insight from his personal experience, backed by scientific and spiritual support. This book has solid guidance for those who suffer from addiction just as much as it does for those who don’t.

We should be providing compassionate care for people with drug addictions. If harm reduction sites were in every state, and drugs were decriminalized, I am confident we would see a massive drop in violent crimes, deaths from overdose, and an overall increase in well-being across the board. I am really grateful for Dr. Maté, and for the information he provided in this book. I highly recommend it.

9 people found this helpful

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  • B. Moffatt
  • 2019-08-25

How did they let this narration happen?

Title says it. I agree with the other reviewer that Gabor’s voice is quite enjoyable. In fact the way he delivers his message is very powerful. And the message is so crucial. Daniel’s rendition makes the whole matter feel like a joke. How did the producer let him do impressions and accents when reading quotes? The performance feels completely unprofessional.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Oliver
  • 2018-10-03

Like a compass

Filled with so much insight, no chapter went without its revelations.
The content is highly technical, but manages to be accessible to laypersons seeking answers about their inner mechanics.
I have recommended it several times already.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Public persona
  • 2018-12-21

Anyone in the helping field must read

This book is Is great for anyone in the helping field it’s a must read if you are working with addictions or in the emergency room or anywhere. Dr Gabor puts a true face on any addictions.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Kanjas
  • 2019-06-05

So enlightening

Thank you for this great work. Greatest approach to addiction I've learned and I'm on my way to recovery.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Tatras
  • 2020-01-20

Great Testimony of human condition

Adiction is usually caused by great trauma and distress which is many times inherited in family over generations (and thats why aboriginal and other exploited populations have much more adiction rates). Lost faith in humanity, lost human connection and emotions, which both gives us meaning creates void - we try to fill this void with addictions (not just substances, but not ending flood of information from our electronic devices, which works similar to our dopaminergic system for example->atention economy). Seeing adicts as wounded people actually works much better then repression (in most cases people can be persuaded much better and faster with kindness, not pressure, unconditional acceptance is good starting point for encounter with anyone and hardest is usually unconditionally accepting ourselves). Criminal behavior dont follow drug use, criminalization of drug use is followed by criminal behavior. So these thoughts above resonated with me most. Adiction is a dark side of passion, where passion creates, addiction steals (its sort of that mythos of holy and fallen world, Satan has all the virtues but love). In all types of addction the addict is actually addicted to the moment of liberation from the emptiness/void, for that brief moment when he is whole. Addiction is ussually some personal parts and evolution systems (of reward and habit forming) blown out of proportion. Passion creates meaning, addiction has meaning only in that brief moment of wholess -> it have no meaning itself. Obsessive passion is an addiction - from outside it can look differently (alcoholic vs workoholic), but inside is always emptiness. ❓Are u addicted?: Is the individual or behavior in control? Given the hurt you doing to yourself and others are you willing to stop? Or You are not able to admit it? -> You are addicted. Addiction consumes the individual and others too over time. Its same as with any escape behavior - depression, psychosis etc. (its obviously complex and there is no perfect person...). Moseses burning bush wasnt consumed by the fire -> passion, addiction would consume ove time. Usefull tool/self-development can become addiction gradually when it shifts from being a tool/way to end in itself (obsession). DaVinci style. Personality of addict can usually easily shift from one addiction to another (addict is primed by less dopamin neurons which can be a predisposition, cause could be trauma/not enough emotional nurturing during childhood or substance use itself). In the case of addictive behaviors (hazard, shopping, internet) people are hooked on their own brain chemicals (dopamin, endorfins) which substance drugs mimics.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jorge C.
  • 2019-11-18

5 stars

Beautiful book with tons of insight, both in understanding yourself and the behavior of others. This is the other side of addiction, the human side. Absolutely loved it, do not think twice. I strongly recommend this book, it was enlightening and very entertaining too. I didn’t get bored once through out the whole book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • coleyoakum
  • 2019-09-08

A deeeeep dive into addiction

this is an amazing resource for anybody who's working in a field where addiction is a factor. The audiobook, was no easier to get through then the print version. It's long, but full of amazing information.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Carolina Villamizar
  • 2019-08-30

increíble! absolutamente necesario de leer

uno de los mejores libros que he escuchado. no solamente produjo un cambio de creencias y juicios hacia la adicción pero desperto en mi nuevas ideas para trabajar con la población con la que trabajo. un libro necesario en TODOS los programas de medicina, psicología, trabajo social y educación. Verdaderamente fantástico!

1 person found this helpful