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The Power of Addiction and The Addiction to Power: Gabor Maté Transcript

Gabor Maté at TEDxRio 20

Here is the full transcript and summary of Gabor Maté’s talk titled “The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power” at TEDxRio+20 conference.

In this TEDx talk, addiction expert and author Gabor Maté discusses how addiction can be a way of escaping pain, and how it is a problem that goes beyond the addiction itself. He also discusses how addiction is passed down from one generation to the next and how it shapes the brain.


I’ve come to talk to you about addiction, the power of addiction, but also addiction to power.

As a medical doctor, I work in Vancouver, Canada and I have worked with some very, very addicted people. People who use heroin, they inject cocaine; they drink alcohol, crystal meth and every drug known to man. And these people suffer.

If the success of a doctor is to be measured by how long his patients live, then I am a failure because my patients die very young, relatively speaking. They die of HIV, they die of hepatitis C, they die of infections of their heart valves, they die of infections of their brains, of their spines, of their hearts, of their bloodstream. They die of suicide, of overdose, of violence, of accidental deaths.

And if you look at them, you call to mind, the words of the great Egyptian novelist, Naguib Mahvouz, who wrote, “nothing records the effects of a sad life as graphically as the human body.” Because these people lose everything. They lose their health, they lose their beauty, they lose their teeth, they lose their wealth, they lose human relationships and in the end, they often lose their lives. And yet, nothing shakes them from their addiction, nothing can force them to give up their addiction.

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