summary of gabor mates embracing the needle

Summary of Gabor Mate’s “Embracing the Needle”

Gabor Mate’s essay “Embracing the Needle” presents the origins of addiction and its effect upon the people who suffer from it. He seeks to educate about the causes of addiction, and how people continue in addictive cycles. Mate states that even when the source of the unhappiness is not obvious, that is what addiction always stems from. The essay begins by exploring causes of addiction and goes on to provide examples of situations which influence a person to develop and sustain harmful coping behaviours.

In the first part of this essay, Mate comments on the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, indicating that it is known as the area in Canada most heavily populated by addicts. He states that much of the addict population also struggles with mental illness. He explains the role of methadone in quelling painful withdrawal from opiates, going on to provide an anecdote of the effect of an opiate drug on the user from one of his clients: “The first time I did heroin…it was like a warm, soft hug.” (Mate, 273) Several scientific pieces of evidence provide reasons for susceptibility to addiction both biologically and emotionally. He indicates that certain neurotransmitters are required to self-soothe and control pain, stating that “Infant rats who get less grooming from their mothers will have fewer natural benzo receptors in the part of the brain that controls anxiety. “ (Mate 275) He says that humans require the same consideration in regards to stimulation of receptors in the brain, stating that the less an infant receives stimulation that triggers a release of endorphins, the greater the likelihood of addiction.

In the second part of the essay, Mate discusses several anecdotes of situations that contribute to the development of addictions in his clients. He asserts that the majority of women and many men who occupy the Downtown Eastside were sexually abused as children, as well as deserted and abused in other manners. As an example, Mate’s relates that one of his clients, Carl, was left restrained in an unlit room as a child because of his high level of activity. Mate reports that many people who become addicted grew up in loving homes by explaining that if the parents are under stress or suffer from anxiety or depression, the child may not have enough endorphin stimulating experiences. Mate ends his essay with another anecdote of a client’s struggle with childhood trauma.

Mate, Gabor “Embraced by the Needle” Essay Writing for Canadian Students 6th Ed. Stewart, Kay L. (et al.) Toronto: Pearson Canada, 2007 273-277 Print

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