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Author speaks on cultural reasons for addiction

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Canadian physician and author Gabor Maté, known for his work on addictions, will share his expertise at a workshop Oct. 22 in Albuquerque.

Maté is the author of “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction,” which has garnered attention for examination of the multiple forces within society that contribute to the widespread incidence of addictions.

“He talks about the cultural aspect of addiction, its origins and how it is promoted,” said Albuquerque psychotherapist Gerald Chavez, who works at the Indian Health Center and at Albuquerque Psychiatry and Psychology, a private practice.

If you go

WHAT: Workshop with Dr. Gabor Maté, author of several books including “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction”

WHEN: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 22

WHERE: African American Performing Arts Center, 310 San Pedro SE

HOW MUCH: $195 (group discounts available). CEU credits approved for social workers, counselors and psychologists. (This has been updated) Register at For information, contact



Maté is critical of the common medical approach which, he says, explains addictions in terms of genetics, rather than the environment. He believes that lets “everybody off the hook.”

By that, he means that relying on a genetic explanation means there is no need to look at social factors such as child welfare policies or support for pregnant women and families. Because of economic conditions, many mothers have to work outside the home and not see their children for most of the day.

“Under those conditions kids’ brains don’t develop the way they need to,” Maté said.

Maté has spent years working in a tough neighborhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, with patients suffering from drug addictions, mental illness and HIV.

Many people with addictions have led difficult lives, including abuse during childhood, Maté said during a 2010 interview with Amy Goodman on the “Democracy Now” program, which is broadcast on National Public Radio and certain cable TV stations.

“When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to, it’s that simple,” Maté told Goodman.

The title of Maté’s book comes from Buddhist mythology where the hell realm is populated by Hungry Ghosts, characters with huge stomachs and tiny throats who can never satisfy their constant hunger.

A native of Hungary, Maté moved to Canada in 1956. He is the author of three other books that have been translated into many languages, which also touch on the interrelation of culture and health. He speaks to audiences throughout North America.

Maté’s workshop is being presented by Crossroads for Women, an Albuquerque organization that provides housing, counseling and support services to women who have experienced abuse, addictions, homelessness and incarceration.



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