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PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF

No External Remedy

BOOK REVIEW: In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, Close Encounters with Addiction, by Gabor Mate, M.D. No external remedy improves our condition without, at the same time, making it worse.

When the brain is diseased, the functions that become pathological are the person’s emotional life, thought processes, and behavior. And this creates addictions central dilemma: if recovery is to occur, the brain, the impaired organ of decision making, needs to initiate its own healing process. An altered and dysfunctional brain must decide that it wants to overcome its own dysfunction: to revert to normal for the very first time.

Drugs influence and alter how we act and feel because they resemble the brain’s own natural chemicals known as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins (interior morphine).

Addiction has no separate existence

The constellation of behaviors we call addiction is provoked by a complex set of neurological and emotional mechanisms that develop inside a person. These mechanisms have no separate existence and no conscious will of their own. Even if the addict may often experience himself as governed by a powerful controlling force or as suffering from a disease she has no strength to resist. The addiction is caused by the failure to obtain proper emotional nurturing during childhood.

Endorphins regulate our emotional life

Endorphins do exactly what organic plant-based morphine does. They both provide blissful euphoria. Beyond their narcotic properties, endorphins serve other functions essential to the human body. They are important regulators of the autonomic nervous system, the part that is not under our conscious control. They influence mood changes, physical activity, sleep, blood pressure and body temperature. They even help modulate our immune system.

Endorphins are the “molecules of emotion”

Endorphins are the chemical catalysts for our experience of key emotions that make human life possible. Most crucially, they enable the emotional bonding between mother and infant. Given the many thankless tasks required in infant and child care, Nature took care to give us something to enjoy about parenting. Endorphins have been well described as “molecules of emotion.”

Endorphins are the opiates of love

Opiates, in other words, are the chemical lynchpins of the emotional apparatus in the brain that is responsible for protecting and nurturing infant life. Thus addiction to opiates like morphine and heroin arises in a brain system that governs the most powerful emotional dynamic in human existence: the attachment instinct: Love.

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