The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Public Program: “The Hungry Ghost: A Biopsychosocial Perspective on Addiction”

Article Type 

Addiction is epidemic in our society and, as such, has become a common word that many people are familiar with, perhaps even painfully so. When one hears this word, thoughts of alcohol and drug addiction almost exclusively come to mind. However, addiction can manifest in many other forms as well, each of which is perceived and received differently by society. Indeed, some forms of addiction have become nonchalantly embedded into our daily vocabularies, as in the case of shopping or Internet addictions. In other words, addiction is a spectrum, running the gambit from textbook heroin addiction to workaholism, and it is vital to recognize this diversity.

Furthermore, society’s reaction to “addiction” is often visceral as many tend to view addiction as a crime rather than a disease — as a slippage in morals or ethics that deserves to be punished rather than a genuine affliction. The blame for addiction tends to circle back around to those who suffer from it, while the feelings of dislocation, spiritual emptiness, and isolation that are often the true source of addiction are ignored and neglected in favor of blaming the victim. In this view, addiction is a moral or ethical problem — not a medical one.

Over the years, professionals have worked to identify the causes of addiction in order to better address this epidemic. Citing evidence that shows how addiction tends to run in families, some professionals have found that genes are responsible, with hereditary “addiction genes” making individuals more or less likely to suffer from addiction. Others, however, have found that addiction is primarily caused neither by what’s in your genes nor what’s written in your moral guidebook but, rather, by your early childhood environment. According to these professionals, addiction originates in trauma and emotional loss that can be traced back years before the onset of addiction. Such research is critical in reshaping society’s view of addiction such that those who suffer from it can receive the treatment and, more importantly, compassion they need.

The Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth is proud to welcome one such professional, Dr. Gabor Maté, to what will certainly be an engaging lecture on the biopsychosocial perspective on addiction, ranging from heroin to workaholism. The lecture is co-sponsored by the Rockefeller Center. Join us as we together unravel the sources of addiction, learn about the latest findings in cutting-edge addiction research, and expand our understanding of what addiction is, where it comes from, and how to treat it.

Dr. Maté is a Hungarian-born Canadian physician who specializes in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology, as well as the study and treatment of addiction. He worked in Vancouver Downtown Eastside for twelve years with patients suffering from drug addiction, mental illness, and HIV, and he has more than twenty years of family practice and palliative care experience. He is also the co-founder of the new nonprofit, Compassion for Addiction, and is an advisor of Drugs Over Dinner. In addition, Dr. Maté has written several bestselling books, including the award-winning In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction,” among others. His works have been published internationally in twenty languages, and he has received a number of awards recognizing his work, including the Hubert Evans Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and the 2012 Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from Mothers Against Teen Violence, among others. He is an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Criminology, Simon Fraser University.

Please join us on Thursday, April 27, at 12:30 p.m. in Haldemon 041 for a special lecture entitled “The Hungry Ghost: A Biopsychosocial Perspective on Addiction, from Heroin to Workaholism” featuring Dr. Maté.

Submitted by Nicole Simineri ’17, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Public Programs

The views and opinions expressed and any materials presented during a public program are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences