Dr. Gabor Maté — New Paradigms, Ayahuasca, and Redefining Addiction (#298)

“Trauma isn’t what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you.” 

– Gabor Maté

[HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: Some people in the comments are asking “Which ayahuasca/ibogaine retreat center would you recommend?” and similar questions. To avoid DIY medicine, potential injuries, and other liability headaches, we have decided not to publish these comments. There’s plenty of other material to work with.]  

Dr. Gabor Maté (@DrGaborMate) is a physician who specializes in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology. He’s well known for studying and treating addiction.

Dr. Maté has written several books, including the award-winning In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. His work has been published internationally in 20 languages, and he’s received the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize; an Honorary Degree (Law) from the University of Northern British Columbia; an Outstanding Alumnus Award from Simon Fraser University; and the 2012 Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from Mothers Against Teen Violence. He is an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Criminology, Simon Fraser University.

I’ve wanted to invite Dr. Maté to this podcast for a while because he is not only an expert in the pathologies of addiction, but he’s experimented with — and used successfully — tools that are perhaps outside the realm of traditional psychiatry. He is also a co-founder, along with Vicky Dulai, of Compassion for Addiction, a group that advocates for a new way to understand and treat addiction.

Enjoy!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

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Dr. Gabor Maté - New Paradigms, Ayahuasca, and Redefining Addiction
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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9B5mYfBPlY]

Want to hear more about alternative medicine? Check out my conversations with James Fadiman, Ph.D. In the below episode, we discuss LSD and micro-dosing for creative problem solving, anxiety reduction, and more (stream below or right-click here to download):

Ep 66: The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide - Risks, Micro-Dosing, Ibogaine, and More
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Enjoy!

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Gabor Maté:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

Show Notes

  • Gabor shares his family history and how it motivated him to understand people as a medical doctor. [09:58]
  • On influential books and gaining, rather than losing, something in translation. [14:06]
  • The link between sensitivity, pain, and creativity. [21:33]
  • How does Gabor start helping someone who’s outwardly successful but inwardly tortured? [24:31]
  • When did Gabor’s interest in medicine begin? [29:58]
  • How did Gabor end up working in palliative care? [33:49]
  • How did Gabor start focusing on his work with addiction? [36:29]
  • What nontraditional methods did Gabor use that raised eyebrows and got him fired, which opened opportunities he couldn’t have foreseen? [37:10]
  • How does Gabor define addiction, and how is it at odds with other definitions? [39:16]
  • What prompted my high school drug addiction? [41:32]
  • How a coping mechanism becomes the root of addiction. [47:39]
  • Looking at the causes of addiction instead of the consequences. [52:10]
  • To what extent do genetics play a role in addiction? [1:01:56]
  • What do the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies tell us about the nature of addiction? [1:04:50]
  • How I’ve used loving kindness meditation to shed certain behaviors. [1:07:17]
  • Once Gabor identifies why an addiction exists, what’s the next step? [1:11:37]
  • Recommendations for someone looking to reconnect with themselves. [1:14:34]
  • After a lifetime of believing himself unaffected by the benefits of yoga, what kind of yoga has Gabor recently started practicing with great success? [1:18:42]
  • How did Gabor begin researching the therapeutic value of psychedelics? What was revealed by his first experience with ayahuasca? [1:20:56]
  • The right way and the wrong way to experience ayahuasca. [1:26:46]
  • Where can people learn more about current scientific studies into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics? [1:30:40]
  • An important caveat about powerful tools and exploitative gurus. [1:35:05]
  • How I’ve been trying to reconnect with myself and my own gut feelings. [1:38:29]
  • Why we shut down our gut feelings. [1:41:14]
  • Elvis Presley’s lack of love song. [1:45:55]
  • Some powerful modalities aren’t for everyone. [1:47:26]
  • How did humans discover ayahuasca? How might it differ from place to place? [1:49:17]
  • Gabor’s pre- and post-ayahuasca practices. [1:53:14]
  • The importance of integrating by sharing our powerful experiences with others. [1:59:41]
  • The clear intention you set is not the same as an expectation. “The task which hinders your task is your task.” [2:01:20]
  • How can we view such a task as a gift? [2:05:07]
  • An exercise for understanding how we respond not to what happens but to our perception of what happens. [2:07:18]
  • Why blaming others for our problems turns us into victims, while identifying ourselves as the source of those problems is empowering. [2:14:01]
  • What Gabor’s books are about and where he and his work can be found. [2:19:25]
  • The problem with the way the United States deals with trauma. [2:24:47]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:27:05]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

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159 Replies to “Dr. Gabor Maté — New Paradigms, Ayahuasca, and Redefining Addiction (#298)”

  1. Tim – really impactful and insight producing interview. And thank you for being so open in public on this and other podcasts with your journey over the past year. It’s opened my eyes to work I need to do and has inspired me by demonstrating we can heal our negative behaviors.

  2. We are fortunate to be living in a time where research into psychedelic medicine is opening up again with groups [Moderator: organization names removed] offering platforms for presenters to share their findings with other professionals and the general public. Thanks for supporting this work on your show.

  3. Dear Tim and everyone,

    Thank you for this interview with Gabor Maté and all resources.

    I’ve been working in the field of embodied learning as a bodywork practitioner and trainer for the past 15 years. Maté’s message(s) are spot-on and extremely important for the world to hear.

    Like others here, I can also highly recommend Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and his best selling book “The Body Keeps The Score.” (I would also love to hear you interview him on a podcast!)

    Another great resource is a little book called “Trauma is Really Strange” by Steve Haines. it’s a great tool for explaining how trauma happens physiologically and perceptually that I often give to my clients when we start down that road of learning together.

    My last recommendation is to check out Micah Fink and his project “Heroes and Horses” and watch the short film. [Moderator: links removed.] It’s an amazing project that I wish many more people would know about and support.

    With my deepest respect and thanks,

    Emily

  4. Best podcast ever.

    Hats off Tim!

    The information about life giving us lessons to practice how we treat one another. This will help my road rage problem – now I know what to work on… it’s ME.Getting stuck on expectations about what we think or ought to occur, marriage, children, work, home life, friends, etc. I will get the books from Dr. Mate.

    Many blessings for passing this information forward. A re-listen to message again and again.

    The teacher will appear when you are ready to take the next step.

    And here we are.

    Work harder on yourself, then you do on your job

    – Jim Rohn

  5. I was a novice about Dr. Gabor Mate. Thanks to Tribe of mentors I think the missing piece i was searching for will be cured. Upon listening to the interview I saw myself in the part of taking drugs for optimism and energy boost. Thats what i was searching for all this while.

    Thank you .

  6. Tim! You’re doing such amazing work!! Wow, thank you so much for introducing such awesome people, like Dr. Mate, into our lives. I really appreciated not only his insight, but also your interviewing capabilities to bring out his best. Your podcasts are entertaining and informative listens and I appreciate the introduction to all these world class performers–you’re one of them for sure.

    Last point, you should know that I had to “chase” Tribe of Mentors around the house after getting it at the holidays. My died-in-the-wool-novel-reader wife with little appetite for my various “self-improvement” books finished it in only a few sittings (!), then was overheard sharing ideas from it with friends and family. The book was also “appropriated” by my screen-addicted and overly-homeworked teenagers (!!) who found time to pick out quotes and ideas to share with me (double win).

    Thank you sir for your good work.

  7. I loved this show. As someone who has spoken on ayahuasca panels for Reality Sandwich, I so appreciated the grounded perspective on entheogenic use, and the necessity of psychological, emotional and energetic integration for those walking this particular path. So many people avail themselves to the psychedelic realms without doing comparable work in the other areas, to disastrous results. It’s clear that Dr. Mate is walking his talk, as he speaks with the sort of embodied tenderness and compassion that only comes from staring one’s darkest shadows in the eyes. I also appreciate Tim’s rawness, which has colored so many of his interviews since he began this current unraveling phase. Hero’s work, to be sure. Bravo, Tim; bravo.

    Some constructive criticism for Dr. Mate, and something I’d love his feedback on: He described his experience with “my ADHD” and with “my workaholism”. In langauging these behavior patterns and tendencies with the word “my” he allows himself to identify with the patterns, which makes them infinitely more challenging to transmute. [Moderator: additional text regarding book and video removed.] Given that Dr. Mate has written extensively about ADHD, and specifically, his own experience with it, I get that the identification issue is a little more complicated, as it is inextricably linked to his brand. But, with the workaholism he is clearly letting go of, a wiser way to language it would be “the workaholic tendencies I am in the process of transmuting” or “the workaholism that’s informed my behavior in the past” – any sort of languaging that allows for impersonal distance between ourselves and the behavior that isn’t serving us. I would love Tim and Dr. Mate’s take on this particular perspective, as I find the way we language our relationship to shadows (and, well, everything) a crucial piece of the transformational path that I am excited gain more attention in the collective discourse. [Moderator: link removed.]

    Thanks again for a powerful and illuminating show. Loved this one so, so much.

    xodk

  8. That was outstanding, learned so much. Quite possible a life changing podcast. Not heard of this Guy until now, I’ll certainly be checking out his work. As an Asthma sufferer, I was particularly interested in experience of racism inducing Asthma. I’ve always had the feeling Asthma is a whole lot more than “Just Genetics, here’s some drugs”. Question being, how does one get into ones head/psyche and ameliorate the stress and fears that induced the Asthma? Not that I’ve ever experienced much in the way of racism, but I had plenty of fear as a child. I guess a good search of Dr Mate work will be revealing.

    Big thanks to Dr Mate, and Mr Ferriss.

    Looking forward to the Jack Kornfield podcast now, but might leave it a while, in case my mind dissolves all together……

  9. Hey Tim. I just wanted to thank you for being so open not only about your struggles with mood disorders, but more importantly for boldly sharing your discovery of the healing powers of plant medicine and supporting its research. It is pure Love and Truth you are supporting! I love Gabor work as well…

    I am in long term recovery from alcoholism. After 7 years sober through AA, I realised I wasn’t feeling as well as I should be. There is a culture in recovery that pushes for being grateful just for your abstinence, but it wasn’t enough for me…I worked my steps inside and out. My sponser is to the Big Book of AA what Marianne Williamson is to A Course in Miracles…I not only worked my program, but studied and taught weekly the Big Book along side my 87 year old sponser…I made HUGE strides forward, I am forever grateful to AA for saving my life, but something still wasn’t right and I wasn’t feeling good enough…FOR ME.

    I had a traumatic childhood. Depression and other mental illness runs in my family. I was taught in AA that I just needed to pray more and that my feelings of not being well were just my alcoholism and that of have to live with it… The thing was I didn’t ever want to drink…so AA had fulfilled it’s job, it had taken away my desire to drink…

    It had not taken away my PTSD or my depression or my broken heart..

    I went through an Ibogaine treatment last summer. It was the most beautiful experience of my life. It was absolutely not fun ,but the healing I experienced would be unlikely to occur after 30 years of therapy and clean living…

    My PTSD was cured in less than 8 hours. I had chronic digestive issues and severe back pain…those where both healed…I was addicted to caffiene, sugar and nicotine…those were all interrupted with no withdrawal symptoms. I was brought to awareness of when my spirit and heart were broken and they where both returned to me perfect and whole….the tar from smoking was removed from my lungs and I left treatment with my lungs healthy and clean…my spending habits where brought into balance. My workaholism was taken from me. My unhealthy need for relationships and attention was removed… I could go on and on…I left my Iboga treatment feeling at perfect peace for the first time in my life, and it lasted. Iboga healed my body, mind and Spirit, and gave me a brand new heart…

    These issues I listed above are things people in mainstream recovery often learn to just live with…major cause of relapse and preventing people from ever being truelly free and happy…

    I really appreciate your work in this area. It saddens me that each modality of healing in the recovery sector thinks it has to make the others wrong in order for them to be right..

    So many people in the recovery sector consider plant medicine a relapse…I was just reading an interview where a best selling author who is open about her past addiction stated, when asked about plant medicine, that ‘ it’s a mind altering substance and therefore a relapse’ putting the plant medicine in the same sentence as NyQuil!

    It is so important to lift the fear and ignorance around this life giving and saving modality

    Bill W., the cofounder of AA was given Belladonna( a psychadelic, as his initial treatment to get sober and he used LSD AFTER he wrote the Big Book and recommended it to other alcoholics as very useful for spiritual growth and healing.

    All scriptures, from the Vedas to the Bible refer to plant medicine as a tool for opening our minds to a spiritual experience….which is the most needed thing in our culture today.

    We have been leaving this part out of the history books for far too long and with the rising epidemic of addiction, mood disorders and spiritual disconnect, it’s vital that we allow these medicines to be available to humans…they are on this Earth for a reason and people need this kind of help now more than ever!

    I have used alot of modalities to heal myself..AA, psychiatrists, psychics, diet, exercise, books, retreats, yoga(all the way to the frickin Himalayas) meditation, massage, mantra, hypnosis, people, places, things,herbal medicine, counseling, forgiving, forgetting, remembering, running, swimming, …on and on….EVERYTHING I can get my hands on

    Most of it has helped tremendously, BUT, with out my Iboga experience I would not be able to say I am healed. Iboga reset my nervous system and my brain.

    Today I am sober AND well thanks to adding Iboga to my tool kit…there is nothing that can do the job of plant medicine…it’s a gift from god for the ailing soul..

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a face and a financier to this vital area of research, study and healing…really awsome, brother♥️🕉️

  10. Another eyeopening podcast. Thanks for all the good stuff, Tim! As a regular listener of the Tim Ferris Show I wonder if it would be possible to bring people together and discuss there theories/methods with another person which operates in the same field just sometimes with a slightly different approach.

    For instance Gabor Mate and Wim Hof, Coach Summer and J. Gregorek etc.

    I couldn’t think about nobody better than you to accomplish such thing.

  11. one of the most powerful podcasts, interviews, or whatever else you might call it, one of the most powerful I have ever watched or heard. Thank you both so much. I have shared it with everyone I know and urge them to listen to it as I feel there is something everyone can relate to in here. It helped me realize that although I have struggles, I am viewing them and handling them the right way. It hasn’t always been that way…but I am learning, healing, and growing. Wow. thank you thank you thank you.

  12. Huge fan of Gabor’s work. In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts shifted my personal addiction recovery work and how I help others as a recovery coach and counselor. All of this “inside job” work is also a godsend for my performance work as an actor. Reading The Drama of the Gifted Child currently and, wow. Always find listening to him and you worthwhile! Thanks Tim.

  13. One of my favorite podcasts ever. I have been curious on the term “workaholic” and wondered how much Dr. Mate has addressed that issue in his own his life over time. Any thoughts on how to find balance and routine between work and play…or just between work and anything else. My partner is the one struggling with this and while she is aware of it, she is not planning on doing ayahuasca anytime soon;) I have worked with plant medicine including ayahuasca in Peru and have already made plans to use it again in the near future. I work in an elementary school, at a public library and mentor young men. I strongly agree with the work and wisdom of Dr. Mate. This science and wisdom could have saved a lot of people we all have known in our lives.

    It could still save a lot that we do.

    And their children too.

    I think it could ultimately save us all.

  14. LOVE this interview. I’ve also been a fan of Dr. Mate’s work for many years and as an EFT tapping practitioner I was THRILLED that he mentioned it as one of the ways to deal with these old childhood traumas that shape us in so many unpleasant ways. I am a little disappointed that the link to EFT tapping in the show notes takes people to a site that isn’t as professional as some others, but any exposure is good exposure.

    I felt your pain Tim when Dr. Mate was giving you a taste of his brand of therapy on the air..haha. I volunteered to work with him at a keynote he gave at an energy psychology conference I was attending..and I got a similar dose in front of a couple hundred people. Intense to say the least. Haha. Thanks again for the great interview…I’m SO happy you’ve discovered what I consider the greatest emotional biohack we have! Love and gratitude..

  15. Hey Tim, I’ve been listening to your guests for a few years now. This interview was one of your best and most important. This guy knows how it works. His views are deep and spot on. Thanks for bringing him to so many people.

  16. Hey Tim,

    I could say this for pretty much your entire body of content but I really, really appreciate you exploring addiction and connecting us with that information. It’s something that I have struggled to find information that actually makes sense, as opposed to just developing viscous cycles of self-loathing & a sense of failure from not adhering to a stupid protocol.

    This means a lot to me and I’m sure a lot of other people who are desperate to make sense of it in a more meaningful way. If you are even half-inclined to explore this further, I can guarantee you would likely help thousands of people attain a quality of life that would otherwise be lost out there. I and many others look up to you as an authentic, conduit of wisdom that would otherwise be missing from our lives. We need more people like you and the best thing (In my opinion) about what you are doing is you are guiding people to be better students & teachers as well cultivating a sense of value in learning.

    Once again, thank you Tim.

    -Conor

  17. I really enjoyed Gabor Mate interview. Brilliant man and brilliant work. Also, many times you mention you like to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone, so I wonder how out of your comfort zone you like to get? I would like to challenge you to look into interviewing Peter Joseph. The accidental founder of the Zeitgeist movement.

    Cheers.

  18. What a wonderful, intimate engagement from two thought leaders. Particularly enjoyed both sharing personal struggles and insights in addiction. Will listen to this podcast multiple times. Love the new video component!

  19. So it is understandable from a cover your butt point of view that you have chosen not to give any information on clinics or other resources for your listeners. The hard part is it almost puts folks like myself at risk of finding some person or facility that is not legitimate and getting a negative or harmful experience because the access to legitimate resources was not revealed.

    I throw out there that if you are going to have guests that offer information, and if you yourself are going to comment from personal experience and transformation, you should be prepared to assist those who follow your podcasts. Sorry for the run on sentence but you get my drift.

    You are basically saying I have made all this money and have access to these influential people who helped me and could change your (the listeners) life, but I am going to withhold it to cover my ass. Somewhat elitist maybe? Not asking for you to say Wes, go here! but a list or a link of possibilities I could follow and make an informed personal decision would be, I think, reasonable and appropriate. Otherwise maybe you should just get fluffy guests on your show who you can easily recommend their spin class or crochet blog.

    I really want to follow this path in an adult and responsible manner without waking up in a hotel bathroom with my kidneys missing!

    Pass the buck to a third party who lists these facilities as an informational resource only. You have no problem recommending I stretch myself on a Teeter or bike on a Peloton to feel better and get more healthy, how about a solid Ayahuasca clinic?

    Anyways I am most likely writing in vain here but I would bet money if you publish this comment you will see a goodly number of folks in agreement. If not, I would like it for me and they can do whatever they want.

    Thanks for listening and letting me vent here the interview was amazing.

    Cheers,

    Wes

  20. Hello Tim,

    As always, thank you for expanding my world and introducing such fascinating people as Gabor! And your conversations always suspiciously timely for me. On a note about The Drama of The Gifted Child.. I have avoided it for the same reasons, not wanting its title scream from my book shelf: “I need help! “ and so on.. and just couple weeks ago I finished it by the recommendation of my therapist (after just 1st session with her), when I finally got ready (tired of old ways) to untangle my past and causes of pain. Youtube has an audio version of it littke over 3hrs btw. And it does make you cry, just a heads up.

    On that note, I wanted to ask a question. You are free not to answer. But I personally struggle with the idea that if I publicly share/recommend such book, my parents, who follow me on sm will get it the wrong way. While your work is such a deep self-exploration, and sometimes touches bery deep personal topics and experiences, how do you deal with that exposure and how do your loved ones react to, let say, notion that your childhood could cause you suffering when in their mind it should’ve not. Or, how would you approach it hypothetically speaking? I appreciate your time and work, thanks again a million 😉

    Cheers

    Jenn

  21. Hi Tim, thanks for sharing your thoughtful conversation with Gabor Maté. Plenty of gold in there! What a wonderful and interesting human. X

  22. One powerful quote that went missing from the notes:

    “Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.”

    ― Ramana Maharshi

    1. Please see the “Selected Links” heading in the main body of this post. The source can be found 4th from the bottom of that section.
      Thank you,
      TTF

  23. Thanks for the amazing podcast Tim, Gabor & the rest of the team. Can we expect a follow up any time soon? That would be great! Not expecting it, but looking forward to it nonetheless!

  24. I know you follow ‘billions’ , even participate in one…would you say that that ayahuasca scene was not solid? Talking about the latest episode of course. You have noticed it too did you not? Pupils were too small wouldn’t say? After coming out of the tent I would expect that their pupils would have been fairly big… I know that ‘here here ‘ may not the best place to bring that up for discussion…but here is an idea, beyond getting to confirm that by someone who could … you get interested to invite some specialist and talk eyes & pupils and what have you. Would be a great podcast wouldn’t it? Attaboy Tim! cheers P.