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In this talk medical doctor Gabor Mate discusses the physiochemical mechanisms that cause addiction and how those mechanisms come about. He rejects the idea that addiction is genetically inherited and stresses instead the importance of the living conditions of the first few years of a person’s life when the most crucial brain development happens with humans. Especially important here is the relationship with the caregiving parent whose absence or high stress levels can be extremely detrimental to the normal growth of the infant’s brain. Mate links the high level of addiction problems in modern society to the destruction of traditional communities and their child rearing methods by the industrial revolution. He’s talking in particular about the Canadian First Nations, but the same surely applies to the rest of us living in (post)industrial societies. Of course, it’s not just addiction that’s a modern phenomenon. Depression, which is closely related to addiction in many ways, has also reached epidemic levels only fairly recently. Regardless of what we conceive as the actual reasons behind these epidemics, I think it’s important to realise that mental “disorders” (for want of a better word) are always social phenomena at heart and that we should be looking at the society as a whole and not just the individual people when trying to solve these problems.

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