A new book, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”, by Gabor Maté, a controversial addiction specialist and author, continues to explore a link between childhood trauma to drug and alcohol addictions, among others. With 90 percent of people who have substance use disorders in the United States who go untreated coupled with seventy-two thousand deaths in 2018 from overdose alone, learning more about addiction and addressing how the country and rehab in New Jersey approach the problem becomes more paramount by the day.
“Studies show that early stress affects both the nerve cells in the brain and the immune systems of mice and humans that makes them more susceptible to cocaine as adults,” Gabor said in a recent interview with California Healthline. “If you look at brain circuits implicated in impulse regulation or stress regulation or emotional self-regulation, all are impaired in addicts.” The pop cultural stigma around addiction in America continues to be that of lack of self control rather than an illness that has very physical elements to it that inhibit healthy behaviors from overcoming unhealthy ones. Many modernized addiction treatment facilities in New Jersey that focus on behavioral therapy also mix into the process of treatment emotional and psychological therapy in addition to Medication Assisted Treatments (MAT) where possible. The complexity of addiction is still largely a new territory in the field of health.
In his book, Maté worked with several institutions and facilities, making some rather shocking but possibly insightful observations about those in treatment he interviewed and worked with. Over the course of 12 years, he worked with hundreds of women in treatment, 100% of whom had been sexually abused as a child and the men were physically, sexually and emotionally abused, suffered neglect or had been through the system of foster care. Thirty percent of those he worked with were native First Nations people (commonly referred to as American Indian or Native American) in Canada, who had a multitude of traumatic situations incurred through their lives, such as government abducted children sent to residential schools where they were not allowed to see them, the kids themselves were abused physically and sexually as well and the group as a whole going through multi-generational trauma has resulted, in Gabor’s view, to the high rates of addiction, violence and suicide.
“All addictions – alcohol or drugs, sex addiction or internet addiction, gambling or shopping – are attempts to regulate our internal emotional states because we’re not comfortable, and the discomfort originates in childhood. For me, there’s no distinction except in degree between one addiction and another: same brain circuits, same emotional dynamics, same pain and same behaviors of furtiveness, denial and lying.”