Vice: Why is there a large-scale heroin epidemic among young people in North America?
Dr. Gabor Maté: Heroin is a painkiller. It’s actually the strongest pain reliever that we have, and it relieves emotional pain as much as physical pain. So the real question is not why is there a heroin epidemic, but why is there so much pain amongst young people today?
Why do you think treatment has been ineffective for so many young people?
It’s ineffective, because it sees the addiction as the problem. The problem is everything else I’ve been talking about. Addiction is not the problem. Addiction is the addict’s attempt to solve a problem. What did your addictive behavior do for you? I don’t mean what was negative about it—that’s obvious to everybody—but what did you get from it? It gave you something. What did it give you?
If his approach speaks to you you’ll find many videos on youtube and his books to study it deeper. I am currently reading and can highly recommend: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.
His theories remind me of my thesis for the diploma as a social worker. We based our considerations on the theory of salutogenesis by Aaron Antonovsky, designed a qualitative study, and conducted four interviews with ex-addicts who managed to stay clean, asking them what the factors were that helped them in their successful recovery. I keep thinking that I should scan the paper and make it available online.
Photo borrowed from another, much deeper interview on ecobuddhism.org.