Time to treat the problem

Time to treat the problem

We think that Think Box on 22nd October 2013, titled “Time to treat the problem” by Peerawat Jariyasombat (see below) seems to be a personal observation of The Cabin and how Peerawat’s own awareness of addiction was heightened after visiting us…Peerawat had spent a couple of days with us in order to do a feature for the paper.

“Think Box” is a weekly column in the LIFE Section of the Bangkok Post Newspaper  written by various staff writers that features witty, intelligent and insightful commentary on issues making the news or stories they cover.

We think that Think Box on 22nd October 2013, titled “Time to treat the problem” by Peerawat Jariyasombat (see below) seems to be a personal observation of The Cabin and how Peerawat’s own awareness of addiction was heightened after visiting us…Peerawat had spent a couple of days with us in order to do a feature for the paper.

Time to treat the problem

I was sitting in the restaurant of a privately-owned rehabilitation centre in Chiang Mai. It was lunchtime and I noticed many people started to move around – leaving the dining room to go to a nearby lawn. They seemed happy to leave the enclosed space. Most of them immediately lit a cigarette when out in the open. Nicotine is likely to be the easiest tool for them to fight stress.

I trusted that they all came from rich families as shown by their attire and accessories. Some even look like Italian mafia from New York. A muscle man showed his unique dragon tattoos on each arm. A thin lady seemed like a party girl who just woke up from a long dream. I accidentally looked into someone’s eyes and sense their aggressiveness – or maybe the stress.

“We need to teach addicts about real happiness and how to enjoy life.”

This rehabilitation centre is well hidden in a peaceful corner of Chiang Mai. Adapted from an old riverside resort, the establishment is set in a serene tropical garden and offers its clients a comfortable living environment – luxurious villa-style accommodation with modern facilities such as a hot shower and cable TV. It is a nice place that even ordinary people would love to stay in – I can vouch for that.

The place is specially designed for those with addictions – drugs, gambling, gaming, sex, etc etc. With its secluded location, the clientele are wealthy people, celebrities, even members of royal families, and those who do not want to meet anyone that might know them. For all these luxurious facilities and services, the centre charges nearly 400,000 baht for a 28-day treatment package.

It sounds expensive, but the package is much cheaper than those being offered in Australia or the US, said a key management executive, adding that the addicts waste more money using drugs or gambling.

“Our clients come from everywhere, with different backgrounds and addiction problems,” said a staff doctor. “One client spent an average of 5 million baht a month on gambling. We have a couple – brothers – who come from the same family. We have a husband and wife sometimes, but we advise them to come at separate times.

With such a pricey package, the psychiatric team doesn’t have an easy job. Every day, the psychiatrists and staff keep the addicts busy with useful activities, including educating them on how drug usage can affect their brains, minds, life and their families.

“When any client breaks regulations, the whole group will get punishment. The punishment is tiny, but that’s the way to teach them they are not alone. When they use drugs, it also ruins their family and affects other people as well,” a staff member explained.

It was interesting to learn that this centre considers drug addiction as a brain disease, not a habit. One of the executives is a former cocaine addict, and the centre uses that experience to understand their clients. According to the rehab doctor, not all people, even those in the addicts’ families, know that rehabilitation is important. It is a sensitive process that prevents relapse, and it should be undertaken right after detoxification. Most state-owned hospitals offer only drug detoxification, so the centre focuses on rehabilitation. It strengthens their minds, enabling them to get back to the real world and learn to enjoy ordinary life.

“Addicts’ brains are badly affected. Some may spend years in their rooms using drugs, and that is the only happiness they know. We need to teach them about real happiness and how to enjoy life,” said one of the staff. In the centre’s halfway house, I am stunned to learn the clients have come from various parts of the world. Some are business people who have had too much to drink and for too long. Some are foreign kids with drug problems from super-rich families. Plenty of them come from Thailand’s neighboring countries. Even some Thai addicts from famous families hide themselves away here quietly.

The rehab centre is full all-year-round and is in the process of expansion to accommodate more clients. I learn that the addicts here are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more who cannot afford treatment. The high demand for rehabilitation treatment tells us that a nationwide drug problem is around the corner – and it may be closer than we think.

Peerawat Jariyasombat is a travel writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.