Technically the above statement is untrue, as Gabor Mate was already born when Carlos was not yet deceased. Yet, I heard underpinnings of Carlos’ stories in Gabor Mate’s ideas expressed in a radio interview today in The Current on CBC radio.

When I was in my twenties, I was in the grip of Carlos Castaneda and his books. The Peruvian born anthropologist and writer Carlos Castaneda was the author of The Teachings of Don Juan (1968) and other books, in a series about the practices of a shaman named don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian from northern Mexico. The books sold like hotcakes. I surely gobbled them up.

Castaneda’s allegedly true, anthropological stories about his spiritual encounters with the god Peyotl in the presence of his teacher, don Juan, took place while under the influence, in drug-induced visions. The ceremonies were supposedly taking place in the Mexican desert. They had used the cactus-based, hallucinations promoting drug: peyote.

The result of the drug use was that they gained supernatural powers and obtained deep insights through the altered state of mind in the ceremonies. Carlos stated that his perception at those times allowed him access to a realm unknown, yet still reachable by man.

I even once had a dream myself about meeting the god Peyotl in the desert, exactly as described in the book, but get this: I dreamt that prior to even having read the chapters in the book describing that scene. That convinced me of the existence of a supernatural or parallel universe. I became a believer for a time, as I was sure then  I was given messages through my dreams. I have to add that I was highly stressed and emotionally fragile in those days, because my boyfriend and I had just broken up.


In an interview in Time in 1973, Carlos was confronted with the inconsistencies in the factual information in his books, to the extent that he was completely discredited as an anthropologist. Other publications in 1976 also discredited his facts as fiction. Carlos disappeared when his alleged true stories turned out to be less than factual, although his books were and are still an exciting read. His anthropological academic career ended. He died in 1998 of a liver cancer (Wikipedia).


Everybody who has ever driven up to Vancouver and over East Hastings has seen the appalling and dehumanizing effects of addictions. My friend from Amsterdam who recently visited me could not believe her eyes. She has never seen any street scene like it (nor have I) anywhere else in the world. It is inconceivable to us that a city council and a provincial government would allow this situation to perpetuate and not make funds and resources available to deal with the situation. If they lack ideas, they could inquire with the City of Amsterdam how to deal more humanely with the addicted population.

Gabor Mate, a physician working with drug addicts in the East Hastings district, has developed a therapy that he said can assist with breaking the addiction. He has seen results with the use of a similar drug as peyote called Ayahuasca, derived from jungle plants, that indices hallucinations and recovers  memories that were suppressed for a long time, lost memories of past trauma. Re-appearance of those deep, emotional injuries sustained during childhood can assist the person in realizing the source of their hurt and understanding their need to cover up that emotional pain with substances. Once the memories are realized, shared and the processing of the feelings have started, the person can then heal.

According to Gabor Mate, the Ayahuasca medicine by itself is not the remedy, but is just a means to get to the heart of the matter and is only one part of a range of  remedies. The community surrounding the person in the midst of healing must offer additional support such as counselling and protective interventions. In the jungles where this method was pursued by the local population, the healing person needs to stay put for an extended period working on becoming emotionally stronger. Extensive counselling is needed. Gabor Mate  mentioned that the Peruvian treatment takes  nine months, on average, when following the traditional program.


This paradigm of the origins of addiction is in contradiction with the medical model that sees addition as an illness and as a physical condition, caused by lacking enzymes, or as a genetic predisposition, or some other medical theory.

Gabor states that he sees addiction as the result of a coping mechanism out of control, where people in pain self medicate to avoid feeling the deep emotional injuries sustained in childhood by abuse (I loosely paraphrase here). I agree, but I would like to add that in my seven years experience working in the Jellinek addiction treatment centre in Amsterdam with heroin  addicts, also those children who have been over-controlled/protected and their developing personality and emerging independence systematically undermined by their parent run great risk of becoming emotionally crippled  adults with a predisposition to become addicted.

The model  of addiction as the result of emotional injury that stopped further development in the child/teen years and that prevented emotional maturity of the person, is also the approach that the drug treatment industry in the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries have applied for at least the last thirty years, with success: the developmental-socio-psychological model. The medical model already had been left behind in the seventies. Treatment for addictions in European countries is generally delivered in a combination of treatment facilities and counselling modalities, offered within an comprehensive approach, with oversight by dedicated special task forces or steering committees with city, provincial and national representation and funding, and ongoing research on what works.


Gabor Mate sees methadone maintenance treatment–so popular nowadays–not as a solution to the problem, but as the replacement of one addiction with another.  He concedes methadone can be helpful to stop the cycle of using and scoring, so that other activities can begin after the addicted person has stabilized on methadone.

What I have seen is that we seem to have a new trend where methadone maintenance has become the cheap treatment of choice for all kinds of addictions and that one adopts the belief and professes to be “clean”, while still on methadone. That thought is a fallacy  and a  dangerous view in my opinion that hampers the addicted person from pursuing real,  drug-free lives. I agree with Gabor Mate that methadone treatment can only be a fairly temporary stage towards health. Of course, those with a mental illness might need to continue their prescribed medication as required to function, such as those with Bi-Polar Disorder.

Gabor Mate has another appearance on TV this Thursday at 8 p.m. in The Nature Of Things on CBC.

What do you think? I would love to hear what you think. Please, leave your comment below.


About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
This entry was posted in Author circles, Children and child protection, Creative fiction, Green living, latest news items, memoir writing, methadone treatment, the Netherlands, Uncategorized, war on drugs, world issues, Writing life. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s