- Title: THAILAND: Monastery helps drug addicts stay clean
- Date: 26th May 2007
- Summary: DRUG ADDICTS WALKING TOWARD SAUNA VARIOUS DRUG ADDICTS LINING UP TO RECEIVE HERBAL MEDICINE DRUG ADDICTS WALKING INTO SAUNA INTERIOR OF SAUNA
- Embargoed: 10th June 2007 13:00
- Location: Thailand
- Country: Thailand
- Topics: Health,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVABG8SA9TEY0HUBLSFEURXO9LHV
- Story Text: Hardened drug addicts -- both Thai and foreign -- put themselves through the gruelling 10-day "cold turkey" detox and meditation programme at Wat Tham Krabok in the hope it will help them stay clean.
The remote monastery, some 140 km north of Bangkok, is a far cry from well-known western rehab clinics like California's Betty Ford or London's Priory, where patients spend thousands of dollars for luxury treatment.
The methods are also somewhat different.
Dressed in red hospital-style overalls, patients sit cross-legged and side by side in front of a long open drain. They knock back the thick, dark potion that lies at the heart of the detox programme and then, accompanied by drums and chanting, they drink a bucket of water before sticking their fingers down their throats to make themselves vomit.
The potion reportedly draws toxins out of the patient's body and into the stomach. The quickest way to get the toxins out of the stomach is for the patient to drink large quantities of water and then vomit, said Phra Hans, a Swiss psychologist who became a Buddhist monk after visiting Tham Krabok seven years ago.
The potion's ingredients, which were revealed to the aunt of one of the first monks at the monastery in a dream over 50 years ago, remain a secret, known only to Tham Krabok's abbot and medicine monk.
"Drug addicts has to do with life and therefore people have to be ready to face the challenge of life which they may have been avoiding so far by taking drugs," said Phra Hans.
Irrespective of where they come from, patients are asked to pay 100 Baht ($3 U.S. dollars) a day to cover their food. Treatment and accommodation are free, paid for out of contributions to the monastery. By contrast, a month in Betty Ford costs 23,000 US dollars, while the Priory is reported to be as much as 5,000 US dollars a week.
Many of the patients are hardened drug users and it is not the first time they have tried to kick their habit.
"Your problems start to get bigger. Not only financially but problems with my parents, with family, with my friends. I just want to live without drugs. That's what made me decide to come here," said 23-year-old Dutchman Roy, who had tried and failed to beat a four-year cocaine habit in a South African clinic. He is in his second week at Tham Krabok.
"My friends are still on drugs and I don't want to go home but I know that I can't hide myself in a monastery my whole life. At the moment I'm a little confused. I don't know what I want to do. But I know that I want to stay here now. Now I'm happy here, now I'm lucky here and I want to stay here now a few months longer," said Bella, a 29-year-old Austrian who has been on heroin and morphine for seven years. She is now in her third month at the wat.
Patients must stay for a minimum of 10 days and must adhere to a strict regime of manual work and meditation. Steam baths are also part of the treatment, as is a grounding in mediation for the patients, 80 percent of whom are Thai Buddhists, the rest foreigners of all denominations from across the globe.
Regardless of nationality or religion, patients are given a Buddhist "sacca" or vow in which they swear never to touch drugs or alcohol again. Many repeat the six-word Thai phrase once they have left the Wat to calm down or to help them resist succumbing to drugs again.
"If they can perform this victory, this might be the first victory they can take home after 10 or 20 years of constant defeats and relapses and this is maybe the most important thing they can take from Tham Krabok beside sacca which is the essential element of our treatment," said Phra Hans.
Wat Tham Krabok was founded in 1959 by a group of monks who decided to renounce all earthly pleasures and live out the rest of their days in a cave. They started working with drug addicts after the then military rulers -- who were busy purging Bangkok of its opium dens -- persuaded them to accept a large plot of land in return for taking care of the drug addicts being chased out of the capital. Nearly 100,000 addicts have since passed through.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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