Health tourism, dental tourism and now rehabs tourism has well and truly arrived in Thailand.
It’s a relatively new industry in Thailand but highly successful, attracting around 1,000 international clients in 2013.
I have decided to write this brief article to give some insight into how a rehab operates and what they offer. You can find a lot more information on the websites of each facility mentioned.
Why has Thailand become so popular for drug and alcohol addiction treatment recently?
Over the last few years Thai rehabs have become an alternative to western facilities. Operating costs here are obviously lower so it costs about a third compared to Australian, European, and American based treatment centers.
There are a couple of facilities in northern of Thailand, New-life and the Cabin. These involve an internal flight after you arrive in Bangkok. If you want a resort style approach, head for Darah on Ko Chang, an island about 5 hours drive from the capitol and then a ferry ride across to the island. Even Bangkok hosts a small house called Heavens in the middle of the city. Then there is Hope Rehab Center Thailand, located on the coast, about 50 minutes drive from the main Bangkok Airport, perched on a hill overlooking the Port of Siam in a medium sized town called Sriracha. Sriracha is famed for its Japanese influence and chilly hot sauce.
Cat Marnell, the renowned journalist who is well known for her writing on addiction and going to Rehab, coined the phrase “Destination Rehab” after coming to Thailand and working with Simon Mott, the founder of Hope Rehab Center in Thailand.
“My thirty days in Thailand in treatment working with Simon as my counsellor and the team was incredible: a bright star-month of hope, healing, and happiness against the backdrop of a dark, stormy sky of a drug-addicted life in New York City. Not only did it cost much less, the treatment and experience was overwhelmingly more effective and interesting and special. I received incredibly intelligent addiction therapy, both one-on-one with my counsellor, Simon, and in the group sessions, that were compelling, powerful, and educational.”
It's hard to say where the best rehab in the world is, probably it's one you never heard of. Usually the best places are modest operations out of the way. Ironically, part of the solution for addiction is humility and a reduced ego, so the glamorous 5-star luxury resort-style rehabs go against this principle. Also, it is an impossible claim to make by any single treatment center, some are better than others for an individual, depending on their needs and many other factors.
Thailand has long had Thamkrabok Monastery that offers an Eastern take on addiction treatment. It’s the unmedicated detox and vomiting method. I have heard mixed reports on the experience, from feeling like a punishment to getting enlightened. Remember its mostly based on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, not psycho therapy. Having said that it is respected and has helped many Thai addicts and people from around the world.
In a remote and rural part of Thailand, New-life centre is located outside Chiang Rai. It’s a more hippy-dippy approach to addiction, what professional’s regard as a soft option, more like a retreat however addicts are thrown in with serious mental health clients, which can confuse matters I have heard.
Thailand is a country that desperately needs modern addiction programs. Thankfully, Hope Rehab in Sriracha, has forged a relationship with a local doctor. Together they have started a Thai speaking recovery group for local alcoholics.
Today so much more is understood about addiction, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) sounds highbrow but actually has produced user-friendly guides. Modern approach’s use CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy together with traditional 12 Step programs. In addition it is also accepted that mindfulness and physical fitness training gets the best results. Most successful treatment outcomes are from abstinence-based programs however some clients opt for non-abstinence treatment such as Dara offers, in the hope they can control their addictions.
In Thailand they talk about the monkey mind, harmful unhelpful negative thoughts jumping around in your mind so the first job to do in treatment is to tame this naughty monkey by giving him a job to do. You also learn to stay away from future concerns and past regrets that distract you from getting well now.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques are part of Thai-Buddhist culture and can help with addiction, it is one of the most powerful tools that people can learn during your time at Rehabs like Hope.
Mindfulness is a state of mind that you learn to create by using techniques to self-regulate your thoughts and feelings through observation.
Simon Mott is the cofounder of Hope Rehab and Thailand has been his home for the last four years. He first started helping addicts in London, giving them clean needles but much prefers helping them get clean. Simon was the manager of the Cabin for 3 years, a large and successful Centre in Chiang Mai. He says that it has been helpful that people like Pete Doherty, Michael Barrymore, Cat Marnell, and Gail Porter have been public about coming for treatment in Thailand.
Thailand has a reputation for partying but not in small towns like Sriracha, because of its commercial ports it has been ignored by tourism. It's near Bang Saen, the “the Monte Carlo of Thailand” and because of the many wild monkeys swinging around in the trees, nick named “Monkey Carlo” is a gentle and spiritual place.
They do something called recovery-coaching there, employing people in recovery to take clients out in the community. It is very popular amongst the rich and famous who struggle to beat their addictions using traditional methods.
Hope’s cofounder Alon is a very traditional Thai girl. She was brought up on a diet rice and Buddhism, mediation and chanting. It seems to be part of Thai genetic make up and enhances their lives and society immeasurably. This is perfect for western clients, much of the solution to addiction is best described as spiritual so Thailand is the ideal place for recovery to begin. Addiction is not so much about the substance or behavior, rather a brain condition that can thrive on anything.
Most international clients come from Australia and use methamphetamine, heroin, cannabis and of cause alcohol. This is because their treatment system is somewhat ineffective, they mix addiction clients in with psychiatric patients. This can be traumatic for ordinary people just wanting help with an alcohol or drug problems.
Of course people come from many other parts of the globe also seeking treatment for everything from, food, Sex, Gambling and now Gaming. They are all looking for something different, an exotic location, the weather, the food and of course the low cost.
Below are some tips for staying sober
1. Get up before your addiction does, bright and early.
2. Try a recovery meeting, like AA
3. Drink a glass of water when you get up.
4. Look at each new day as a fresh start.
5. Avoid the tendency to isolate specially when your mood is low.
6. Live in the present moment; don’t waste energy thinking about the past or future.
7. Use tools like mindfulness so you are not controlled by your thoughts and emotions.
8. Learn to listen to your intuition or higher self: this leads to happiness and fulfillment.
9. Reduce the time you spend around negative people.
10. Develop self-compassion so you can be your own best friend.
11. Replace the negative self talk with positive and inspiring thoughts.
Information can be found at http://www.hope-rehab-center-thailand.com
After Andrew Drummond's expose of a Thailand-based, Westerner-operated rehabilitation clinic, I am highly cynical about these centres in Thailand. I like what you're trying to do, but I do wonder if the West may be a better option for this sort of thing, price aside.