He estimates that the addict population in Vancouver is around 3,000 to 5,000 individuals. Mate uses scientific research to identify the biological essence of the “high”, which is a condition under the influence of drugs. He explains how the drugs interact with the brains chemistry to give the user pleasure. In particular, he confirms opiates can develop a “high” excitement, which can induce users to temporarily escape from depressions and to feel better (273).
In its “normal” state, Mate explains that the human brain has opiate receptors that interact with endorphins, natural opiate-like substances that can reduce pain and regulate mood. However for some people who suffer early childhood stressors, their ability to naturally produce these positive effects is significantly reduced. They are the ones who are susceptible to addiction. Mate’s thesis is that as these children mature, they look for ways to manage their stress or tension.
This belief is expressed by the words of an addicted twenty-seven year-old sex trade worker: “it felt like a warm, soft hug” (273). Moreover, Mate insists that for these people, drug use can very quickly become an addiction. Therefore, addiction becomes defined as the state of “emotional anesthetic and numbing pain” (273) caused by opiates like cocaine, heroin, tranquilizer, or any combination of chemicals. Therefore in Gabor’s opinion the drugs by itself do not cause addiction.
As he commented, “No drug is, in itself, addictive. ” (273) What he means by that is, it’s not the drugs that causes the addiction, it is the people and the hidden reasons (usually pain of some kind) that drive them to do the drugs in the first place. Mate provides examples about two of his patients, who become addicted to drugs and both were abused or sexually assaulted in their childhood years. These drugs do provide a physiological escape from the pain and as such addiction is the result.
“Embraced by the Needle, “ suggests that addiction is the results of the addicts need to manage their brains lack of ability to produce naturally occurring chemicals. Furthermore it suggests that early childhood negative experiences or a lack of positive experiences set the individual up for a potential addiction. Perhaps this theory helps to explain why some people can use drugs occasionally and others go on to develop an addiction.