News Release

Trump, Death Penalty and Drug Addiction: What’s at the Root of the Problem?


USA Today reports: “Death penalty for drug dealers? Count Trump in.”

GABOR MATÉ, MD, gabor at
Available for a limited number of interviews, Maté, a long-time addiction physician in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, was the onsite doctor at North America’s first supervised injection site. His perspective is that addiction is rooted in childhood trauma and social stress and disconnection and requires not punishment but compassionate care.

His books include the bestselling In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. He was recently on Joe Polish’s program, talking about Polish’s history of drug addiction and addiction generally.

Maté asked the audience what they got from addictive behavior, then summarized their responses: “Escape from pain, sense of control, relief from loneliness, relief from anxiety. In other words, inner peace.

“So right away, when you understand that, you get that the addiction wasn’t your problem. Your addiction was your attempt to solve a problem. And the real question is: how did that problem develop? How come with seven billion humans in the world you felt lonely?

“How come you lacked the sense of agency, control, authority in your life? Why were you in so much emotional pain?

“And everything you’ve said — the loneliness, the lack of power, love, control, the anxiety — these are forms of emotional pain. So my mantra on addiction is not why the addiction but why the pain? …

“The current model of addiction is either the legal one which says it’s a choice that people make and therefore we have to punish them for it. Or it’s a medical one in which case it’s an inherited brain disease. But it isn’t either of those things. What it actually is is an attempt to solve a human life problem: that of emotional pain, loneliness, distress, anxiety — whatever it is.

“And the real question then is: what happened in my life or your life, Joe, or everybody else’s lives here, that we incurred pain. And then how do we deal with our pain? Because the addiction itself magnifies the pain, it multiplies it — it increases it exponentially.”

Maté has worked extensively with people addicted to drugs at a clinic in Vancouver, but he addresses many forms of addiction.

See Maté’s debate with Tucker Carlson on Fox News Channel: “‘Drugged’: Capitalism, opioids and the history of heroin.”

Maté’s other books include: When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden StressHold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, and Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Disorder.