A Reaction to “Embraced by the Needle”: an Essay on Childhood Trauma

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Gabor Mate's personal essay, "Embraced by the Needle," allows for a rational and emotional connection that many drug users suffered in their childhood. Although Mate illustrates with patient life examples and medical research, he allows his examples to be hastily generalized and does not consider all aspects of age and trauma. Mate also uses scientific and emotional bases for his essay that are inhibitory yet effective. This hastiness and complex composition take away from the overall essay's theme, but the effectiveness of Mate's paper allows his points to be conveyed.

Mate's essay depicts the reasons behind some addicts' choices to utilize drugs. Through research that describes brain development and the effects of trauma on the brain, along with patient life examples, Mate was able to establish an overall theme of: "addictions always originate in unhappiness, even if hidden" (Mate, 305). The use of patients' personal experiences helps embrace his thesis by having emotional and relatable connections, which also brings about a saddening effect regarding children and their potential futures if a lack of parental nurturing occurs. The personal experiences are juxtaposed to an experiment involving infant mice and their maternal to establish medical evidence that the lack of affection may reduce brain development and cause anxiety.

Although Mate's theory is rational, he hastily generalized certain patients' stories that fit childhood trauma. With that said, this weakened the meaning behind his paper since there was nothing about adults turning to substance abuse after similar trauma that a child may experience. Likewise, there was no mention of children who have similar stories of drug-abused adults that effectively overcome the need for outside stimuli. Mate also overlooks the possibility of drug abusers that merely use it for the fun of it or for the experience. The possibilities that Mate has left out have harmed his essay by not having an overall view of addicts and why they use them. Mate combines science and emotion in the essay, which displays a complex relationship. However, this emotional aspect partly works against him by restricting the scientific portion of the essay and inhibiting the full understanding of trauma in the brain. The scientific part of the essay limits the raw emotion of the patients by making the patients' stories less evident.

While the scientific and emotional essay combination suppresses Mates' essay, it also increases its effectiveness of it. This complexity allows understanding and relatedness. Mate is able to establish an emotional connection. With patients' examples, such as the sex trade worker, Mate is able to effectively portray sexual abuse victims who use drugs to forget their stolen innocence but use sex to pay for their habit. Another example is Carl, who abuses himself every day by using drugs to forget the emotional strain of abandonment and physical torture but harms himself for using drugs. A final example is Wayne, whose father beat him for small mistakes, and now Wayne lives with emotional pain and uses drugs daily, trying to feel acceptance. These instances Mate described in his paper allow an understanding of why some addicts turn to drugs but also relate to the point that drug users are in a never-ending cycle of drug use and self-harm due to their childhood lack of positive affect. Mate also addresses children who have good parents. Although the parents give the children affection, the stresses from the parents may also stall the growth of their children's brains. This shows another way a child may be negatively affected, not directly through the parents but through the surroundings that may lead children down the wrong path. This allows Mate to have an effective point of brain development with surroundings and/or parental figures.

With emotional connections, Mate enforces his essay with medical research that provides concrete logical explanations for drug abuse. First, Mate explains brain development and the effects of distress on the brain. By use of the infant rat experiment, Mate is able to establish concrete evidence that supports his thesis. The conclusion of this experiment is that the group who had deficient affection lacks neurochemical communications in the brain and is unable to deal with stress effectively. This experiment is relevant to humans since the brains in mammals are similar, with little differences. This conveys the point that parental affection towards a child is proportional to the growth of receptors for 'good hormone' feeling in the brain and allows for concrete evidence. Another research section is by his patients, who explain to Mate that drug abuse is much like a "warm hug" (Mate 305). Through this quote, Mate explains that many addicts use drugs to fill their need for affection. Allowing other concrete evidence from a patient source that gives a reason why the addict uses it in the first place.

In conclusion, Mate established an overall effective essay displaying child abuse proportional to brain development, if lacking, may result in drug abuse. Even though Mate's essay lacked variety in experiences and forced together science and emotion, Mate, overall, effectively used scientific research, patients' life experiences, and medical understanding.

Works Cited

  1. Mate, Gabor. "Embraced by the Needle." Essay Writing for Canadian Students: With Readings 6th Ed. Kay steward, Roger Davis, Chris J. Bullock, Marian Allen Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. 305–307. Print.
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A Reaction to "Embraced by the Needle": An Essay on Childhood Trauma. (2023, Mar 07). Retrieved May 20, 2024 , from
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