The Shocking Truth of What Causes Addiction

By Sam Lawrence on Tuesday September 6th, 2016

What is Really Behind Addiction?

Ever notice how frequently the word “addict” is used? Just do a Google News search on the word and you’ll be shocked at just how often it’s used in a headline. Articles are plastered with mentions of drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts, food addicts, shopping addicts, work addicts and internet addicts. “These people” are painted as out-of-control and often menaces to society who need to be stopped, jailed, medicated or otherwise cut off.

But what if those diseased people weren’t sick at all? What if you suddenly realized you were one of them? Well, that’s what happened to me. In preparation for this podcast, I realized I’m an addict. I’m an addict who comes from other addicts, who has passed it onto my kids, too. I’m constantly looking for a way to not be with myself, a way to avoid the pain that I have, of not having meaningful bonds.

What if those diseased people weren’t sick at all? What if you suddenly realized you were one of them?What if those diseased people weren’t sick at all?

A Different Way of Looking at Addiction

Physician and best-selling author, Gabor Maté, shares the shocking truth about what causes addiction and the things we can do to address the problem. What’s cool about Gabor is that he avoids quick-fix thinking when he tackles things like addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall. Rather, he shines lights on the often uncomfortable truths that live at the root of these things.

Born in Hungary, Gabor survived the Holocaust, became a doctor and worked for over 20 years with patients with hard-core drug addictions, mental illness and HIV before writing In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, When the Body Says No, Scattered Minds, and Hold on to Your Kids (you can learn more on his website drgabormate.com).

Gabor avoids quick-fix thinking when he tackles things like addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall.Gabor avoids quick-fixes when tackling addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall.

Our brief but information-packed conversation even helped me understand why I love podcasting. These conversations  are sort of accelerated intimacy that create quick bonds with each person I talk to and anything that helps me bond, lessens the painful void I have from having that very thing growing up.

I remember hearing somewhere that the purpose of life is to create meaningful connections with others. After this conversation with Gabor, I know you’ll have a new point of view of exactly why that’s so important and how and why we as individuals, families and cultures have strayed so far from it.

Addiction Specialist Dr Gabor Mate.


Read More:

The Opposite Of Addiction is Connection




How to Heal Yourself by Talking to your Body


The Root Cause of Addiction


The Root Cause of Addiction and how to Heal it

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39 Responses to The Shocking Truth of What Causes Addiction

  1. i disagree with his statement about not looking to genetics that the root cause is pain. he states the addicts he treats have all been abused. well myself and many other were raised with love well educated loved no abuse. but i was always edgey and a little empty. when viet nam vets introduced me to heroin i fell in love. it made me whole. it took 10 years to bevome adficted then chased it for 20 more.

  2. Hi,

    I don’t know from where did you hear that sentence – the one about purpose of the life but Jesus was saying this actually 🙂 .

    It’s in Luke 17,20-21:
    20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

  3. “Survived the holicaust”.
    What holocaust?
    As if the jews in WWII were the only important people!
    Allegedly, 6 mil.
    What about the 100 MILLIION non-jews that the jew Communists TORTURED and SLAUGHTERED in Russia? Starting from the Holomodor Genocide in the Ukraine?

    The Alleged 6 million, then, is a drop in the bucket.

    What about the uncounted MILLIONS of Indigenous Peoples the church slaughtered, since the 1500s AD?

    What about OTHER millions of non jews genocided?

    When we talk about “holocaust” why do people only think of jews killed?

    What makes jees more impoetant than others?

    • Totally missing his message, his intention…if you want to tell about the Hoocaust, surely there’s a better forum for you to do that on.

  4. This is not new. The ACE (adverse childhood experience) study was done from 1995-1997, and we gained a very clear picture of what trauma during the developing brain does. Yet, we still treat symptomology. If you listen to Gabor, he clearly states that we do not need any more research, we need action, and preventative action.

  5. He is compelling! He know of which he speaks. His personal addiction is interesting. Reading The Realm of Hungry Ghosts gives such a picture of deadly addictions and the vulnerability of addicts.

  6. A very good disscussion with a deeply thought provoking message we are all addicted to something, yes childhood truana definitly plays a a major part in life’s outcomes, the doctor mentions Jesus but he can’t explain the deepest need of the human spirit because Jesus said there is no good thing within the human heart, we are driven by selfish ambition and only a realisation of this and turning tod God can eradicate the ego of self giving rightful place to The Holy Spirit and the guidance of a life of power and discipline which brings true freedom to experience life in all it’s fullness,I know as I have experienced this in my own life and without my hope and trust in God I would never have truly got over the truama.

  7. MANY Treatment Centers are for profit! The giant corporations that own them have peered into the future and acknowledged that there is a major shift occurring as religion becomes de-sanctified and science fills the void.

    With religion out and science in, the nature and flavor of sin is also changing and sin is becoming addictive behavior in favor of science.

    The recovery industry is doing a hostile take over of OCD and re-branding it as ‘addiction’ so they can have their very own disease.

    Such as the IPO last fall of AAC Holdings, Inc. ‒ the first attempt at a publicly traded company exclusively for addiction treatment– (the AAC stands for American Addiction Centers).


    The quoted price range for a 30-day “treatment plan” (revolving largely around AA) was $15,000 to $26,000. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is easily twice that amount and other, more exotic treatment facilities (often catering to celebrities in swank resort‒style locations) can easily run into the low six‒figures.

    Which reminds me:

    I was talking with these two diseased people one time; one had bowel cancer and the other alcoholism.

    Both were describing their relapses. The bowel cancer victim said: I have unrelenting abdominal cramping, intestinal pain and a bloody stool.

    And the alcoholic said: When I relapse I get drunk, end up in bed with a woman I don’t even know and then I forget about it.

  8. Dr. Mate has the most remarkable way of explaining what is so often sadly true. A brilliant man, with a light within. I will be buying The Realm of Hungry Ghosts so I understand more about the empty feelings I see so many of my family members and friends suffering from. I feel this way myself more often than I care to admit.

  9. I think it’s simplistic to say that all addicts have been abused as children.
    Put it another way – not all children who are abused become addicts.
    why are there children in the same family with no abuse on any level, just caring parents doing the best they can and one child becomes an addict and the other doesn’t.
    I’m so tired of parents being blamed for EVERYTHING that happens to their children. Where does awareness, taking responsibility and making healthy choices come into this scenario of addict as victim of childhood abuse?

  10. Also worth mentioning how sugar has be gradually increased into our diets over the last few hundred years. its now added to near everything in the supermarket. sugar is very addictive and not needed in our diets. From birth our mothers sugar intake will be passed onto her child! Sugar is a substance of abuse and often leads to a natural form of addiction. “Food addiction” seems plausible because brain pathways that evolved to respond to natural rewards are also activated by addictive drugs. so my point is that addiction may be imprinted in our brains from birth, which then may be more easily evoked. for more detail read: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/

  11. He makes a lot of sense. I just wish he would focus more on how to turn it all around. That came at the end but I’d like to hear more about what people actually do that helps them to break free of drugs. Once I thought I couldn’t function without drugs for mental illness that started in my late 40’s. I did serious soul searching that brought me out of that 8 year period of depression and the prescription drugs meant to control it. Finding a deep sense of honesty about everything I thought and felt was key. Working the 12 steps freed me from incessant guilt and the resulting fear. I became unaffected by other people’s opinions of me. I did learn as he said that everything I needed to be calm and assured was within me constantly. The more calm I became, the calmer my experience became. I literally learned that I did have more control than I thought over my experience but not so much over other people’s experience. However, when I maintain my own sense of inner peace, I don’t encounter others who are in an agitated state as often either, but if I do, I react less to them. Its really pretty awesome when that switch finally gets turned and you become as they say, “the captain of your ship”. Not that you don’t get tested now and then about it. It is a discipline to stay connected to your true self. I was able to quit using all drugs prescribed to me 9 years ago and stay balanced. I believe that a lot of what I experienced was due to an abusive relationship which I left at the same time.

    • rwetheltman he dosen’t know that answer, while the human condition of ego can only be dethroned by self, it take a power beyond ourselves to give true worship to whom it truly belongs, The Lord Jesus who said I am the way the truth and the life , he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, despondency or heartache.

  12. I disagree with his ‘theory’ that addiction is caused by child abuse. I was never abused as a child. i had a very loving home and extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles etc). I was very loved my whole life. I have a wonderful sister and brother. So I disprove this child abuse addiction theory. How narrow minded this thinking is. I have physical pain. I hurt every single day of my life, and I’ve been this way ever since I can remember. (age 4). I am not insecure, I am not feeling ‘unloved’, I an not needy, or wanty or desirous of an ‘escape’ or power. I call B.S. on this ‘theory’. I wish researchers and physicians would look deeper into the people who use drugs.

    • He might not have touched on your problem because yours isn’t an issue of mental or emotional pain or you could be in denial. It could simply be physical pain however, you took something for that pain and became dependent. If it makes you feel good emotionally then there are reasons for that which you may have not explored. Growing up with physical pain can affect you emotionally believe it or not. If it has affected the way you live your life, no amount of love can fill that void and no amount of morphine will change that.

    • Hi janeasinner, it’s a bit late, but I just read your mail today. My thought reading your lines: she/he has to go deeper to find the reason. You ask your inner self/higher self/soul for the genuine reason of your difficulties. Of course, nobody should disturb you during this time. You want to meditate for it? Do it. Your soul will answer you, I am sure. Faster than you can imagine!

    • Jane what if your pain and addiction were God’s way of getting your attention, He can use anything we bring to Him to get us were we need to be, having a loving family although wonderful will never suffice for a relationship with our heavenly Father, be glad this world dosen’t fully satisfy and refuse to be medicated because then you will begin to look for things of deeper meaningful greater value,finding a life truly worth living.

    • I’ve read that addiction is a result of loneliness & lack of satisfying connections with friends. Satisfying social connections are so important that they can help you to live longer. You can research that fact.

    • Families often hide or deny unpalatable events thinking to shield a person from pain. While having therapy after a breakdown, I had a flashback depicting an emotionally traumatic event when I was ‘about three.’
      On telling my brother the story, he insisted that the event couldn’t have happened because I was ‘in a home’ at the time. He clearly remembered my return, though didn’t know why I had been sent away or for how long. I was very confused and distressed at this bombshell and, later, asked my aunt about it. She denied it had ever happened.
      A year or so later I had documented proof that the flashback event had occurred when I was nine months old.
      In my early fifties I discovered the source of my lifelong emotional pain.

      • God bless! I deal with PTSD and am hoping I don’t have those for allot I’m pretty sure I already know I experienced. I’m 56…I understand life long. I’m thrilled for you! Run to healing <3

  13. A lot of people think of addicts as people who have contracted this “affliction” as a result of careless or stupid behaviour, where as many addicts ( it’s morphine, in my case ) became addicted to the prescription medicine they were taking at the time. I’m on 150mg of morphine every day – enough to kill a person with no tolerance, & yet, ii’m still treated like a social pariah. Also, if I find myself in a town or city other than my home,even doctors treat me like a junkie criminal who’s trying to obtain this medication through false pretences – even though I always have a letter from my regular G. P. explaining my medical condition & what meds i’m on. this has benn made infinatly more difficult since recent changes to medicare & the bulk billing system.
    What I have learned about addiction – opiate addiction anyway ) is that the drug affects the long term user very differently to a patient, who might receive a few doses over a couple of days & then stop. For example; a one off user will most likely experience nausia, severe tiredness & an aversion to eating. In my case – if I run out, I will experience nausia, lethargy, depression e.t.c. As a professional trawlerman, without my morphine, I wouldn’t be able to function as a

    normal human being. By the same token – when I’m not working or at sea, I dramatically reduce my dose – often going a few days without it, & once back at sea or doing preparation duties in order to put to sea, I sometimes find that I need 1 1/2 pills or even two – it usually avaeages out to about one per day but not allowing myself to become used to the same dose every day, b y chiopping & changing my dose by + or – around 50mg per day, I dont seem to suffer the worst of withdrawls on those times I go without for a few days – and – beleive me – I’ve been through that hell & it’s not a thing I’d wish on my worst enemy. It seems to me that education (once again) is the key.
    An interesting footnote is that in the last 12 months or so,patients are restricted to the amount of over-the-counter codeine preperations they can purchase – once again getting treated as an untrustworthy, hedonistic junkie. And whilst I’m not fully versed as to the reasons why there haqs been such a dramatic upsurge in the consumption of these o.t.c. codeine meds, I’d bet my next pay cheque that at least 75% (probebly more ) are self medicating for depression or some other, equally debilitating psychological condition – because . . . .as it happens, opiates work really well as an anti-depressant & restricting its availability will only send these people to look elsewhere & often buying somethingthat may be way too potent – often with tragic results. Thank you

    Peter Joseph.

    • You are right. I was an addict who put 90 mgs of morphine in my morning coffee for 13 years. I worked, I kept my job, I loved my wife and daughter and I functioned like that for a long time. I didn’t need it for physical pain. I used to it to escape mental and emotional pain. I now face that pain each day with no crutch and it hurts. I have no friends to share this with and it’s very difficult, but I’m getting there.

    • your story gives me strength…..addiction took my life once, it is a problem……i see no reak relief fron it’s thorns …..it has weakened my grip on a reality that most civillians experience……it is a dead end…..it’s all i can do to remain honest…addiction has it’s grip on my life….i feel you….in a big way…

  14. Dr Mate is brilliant! I just finished reading In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts a few days ago and found it to be deeply moving, comprehensive and quite enlightening. We truly need to move past the old broken meme of “the war on drugs” (which is really a war on addicts) and embrace more compassionate humane methods of treatment and take a lesson from Portugal if we want to help people heal. Thank you for being part of this important conversation! 🙂

      • Hi Dowsergirl, the best way for your question to be answered would be for you to watch the video; “The Root Cause of Addiction” also on Uplift Connect-see sidebar-as it explains the Portugal model. Very heartwarming and inspiring!

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