Gabor Maté

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Gabor Maté

Gabor Maté - 01 (cropped).jpeg
Born (1944-01-06) January 6, 1944 (age 77)
NationalityHungarian Canadian
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia (BA, MD)
Children3, including Aaron
Scientific career
FieldsSubstance dependence, ADHD, and psychology

Gabor Maté CM (born January 6, 1944) is a Hungarian-Canadian physician. He has a background in family practice and a special interest in childhood development and trauma,[1] and in their potential lifelong impacts on physical and mental health, including on autoimmune disease, cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),[2] addictions, and a wide range of other conditions.

Maté's approach to addiction focuses on the trauma his patients have suffered and looks to address this in their recovery.[3] In his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, Maté discusses the types of trauma suffered by addicts and how this affects their decision making in later life.

He believes in the connection between mind and body health. He has authored four books exploring topics including ADHD, stress, developmental psychology, and addiction. He is a regular columnist for the Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail.

Life and career[edit]

Maté was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1944.[4][5] His maternal grandparents were killed in Auschwitz when he was five months old.[5] His aunt disappeared during the war, and his father endured forced labour at the hands of the Nazis.[6] He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1956.[5] He was a student radical during the Vietnam War era in the late 1960s[7] and graduated with a B.A. from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

In 1969, Maté married artist and fellow UBC graduate Rae Maté; together they have three children including Aaron Maté.[8]

After working as a high school English and literature teacher for several years, he returned to the University of British Columbia to obtain his M.D. in general family practice in 1977.

Maté ran a private family practice in East Vancouver for over 20 years. He was the medical coordinator of the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital for seven years. For 12 years, he was the staff physician at Portland Hotel, a residence and resource centre located in downtown Vancouver. Many of his patients suffered from a combination of mental illness, drug addiction, and HIV. He worked in harm reduction clinics in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.[9] Most recently, he has written about his experiences working with addicts in In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.[10]

Maté made national headlines in defence of the physicians working at Insite (a legal supervised safe injection site) after the federal Minister of Health, Tony Clement, attacked them as unethical.[11]

In 2010, Maté became interested in the traditional Amazonian plant medicine ayahuasca and its potential for treating addictions. He partnered with a Peruvian Shipibo ayahuasquero (traditional shamanic healer) and began leading multi-day retreats for addiction treatment, including ones in a Coast Salish First Nations community that were the subject of an observational study by health researchers from the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia. Although preliminary and limited by the observational study design, the research results showed that Maté's claims of therapeutic efficacy were well-founded and that participants had significant improvements in some psychological measures and reductions in problematic substance use.[12] However, when the Canadian federal government learned about Maté's work with ayahuasca in 2011, Health Canada threatened him with arrest if he did not immediately stop his activities with an illegal drug.[13] Health Canada's own research on ayahuasca in 2008 showed that they knew the risks associated with the ceremonial use of the brew were very low, and that it had considerable potential value for spiritual and self-actualizing purposes.[14]

Writings and views[edit]

In his books and lectures, Maté emphasizes the role of biopsychosocial aspects of pathology, and the role of psychological trauma and stress. He underlines the importance of relations and social attachment for learning and for health.

Maté defines addiction as any behaviour or substance that a person uses to relieve pain in the short term, but which leads to negative consequences in the long term. Without addressing the root cause of the pain, a person may try to stop but will ultimately crave further relief and be prone to relapse. By this definition there are many things in modern culture that have the potential to become addictive such as gambling, sex, food, work, social media, and drugs.[4] He argues the "war on drugs" actually punishes people for having been abused and entrenches addiction more deeply, as studies show that stress is the biggest driver of addictive relapse and behaviour.[10] He says a system that marginalizes, ostracizes, and institutionalizes people in facilities with no care and easy access to drugs, only worsens the problem.[10][15]


In 2011, Maté received the Civic Merit Award of the City of Vancouver "for his extensive work on addiction treatment and his contributions to understanding mental health and youth related to addiction, stress and childhood development".[16] On May 11, 2018, Maté was awarded the Order of Canada.[17]


  • Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. Toronto: A.A. Knopf, 1999. ISBN 978-0676971453.
    • Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It. United States.
  • When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress. Toronto: A.A. Knopf, 2003. ISBN 9781785042225.
    • When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection. United States.
  • Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. Co-authored with Gordon Neufeld. Toronto: A.A. Knopf, 2004. ISBN 9780307361967.[8]
  • In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. Toronto: A.A. Knopf, 2008. ISBN 9781785042201.

Films and videos[edit]

  • The Power of Connection. Video. Wholehearted, 2020.
  • A Masterclass for Healers. Video. Wholehearted, 2020.
  • Healing Trauma & Addiction. Video. Wholehearted, 2020.
  • Wisdom of Trauma. Film. Science & Nonduality, 2021. By Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo.


  1. ^ "'How we cope with this has a lot to do with our past'". Irish Independent. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  2. ^ "Care to incarceration: what happens to those without a fair start in life". The Independent. September 25, 2015. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  3. ^ "Addiction is a Response to Childhood Suffering: In Depth with Gabor Maté - ICPPD". ICPPD. March 2, 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "How dealing with past trauma may be the key to breaking addiction". The Guardian. November 24, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Malley, JP O’. "Addictions guru channels survival of the Holocaust into self-help empire". Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  6. ^ Gutman, Abraham. "How a traumatized America finds relief in hate". Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  7. ^ Nov 18, Ryan Meili; Share, 2014 10 min read. "Gabor Maté: On Storytelling, Health, and the Ruling Class". Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "'If you focus on control, you have lost the battle': how to win back your kids". The Guardian. March 23, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  9. ^ "How the Stigma of Drug Addiction Hurts All of Us". Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c ""In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts": Dr. Gabor Maté, Physician at Vancouver Safe-Injection Site, on the Biological and Socio-Economic Roots of Addiction and ADD". Democracy Now!. February 3, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  11. ^ "Doctor calls Clement's Insite comments 'repugnant'". The Canadian Press. CTV News. August 20, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2008.
  12. ^ Thomas, Gerald; Lucas, Philippe; Capler, Rielle N.; Tupper, Kenneth W. & Martin, Gina (2013). "Ayahuasca-Assisted Therapy for Addiction: Results from a Preliminary Observational Study in Canada". Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 6 (1): 30–42. doi:10.2174/15733998113099990003. PMID 23627784. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  13. ^ Posner, Michael (November 9, 2011). "B.C. doctor agrees to stop using Amazonian plant to treat addictions". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  14. ^ Health Canada, Office of Controlled Substances (February 2008). "Issue Analysis Summary - Exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Public Interest) Regarding the Use of Daime Tea for Religious Purposes" (PDF). Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  15. ^ MacBride, Katie. "This 38-year-old study is still spreading bad ideas about addiction". The Outline. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  16. ^ "Civic Merit Award". Retrieved October 16, 2021.
  17. ^ "Dr. Gabor Maté". The Governer General of Canada. Retrieved October 16, 2021.

External links[edit]