Seeking Help Overseas –

July 1, 2020 – Chiang Mai, Thailand (CNN) — Kneeling beside a gutter within a walled compound adjoining a complex of golden-roofed temples, 50 men in red pajamas with the word “overcome” on the back are sweating under the midday sun. 

The temple herbalist dispenses shots of a thick, brown liquid that his assistant pours down their throats. They swallow with a wince. In the background, recovering patients are banging on cymbals and tambourines.

The music stops and the kneeling men gulp large cups of water and begin vomiting into the gutter. An Irishman, whose features belie years of drug abuse, is retching on all fours next to a Thai teenager who is shaking from meth withdrawal symptoms.

This is Thamkrabok, a Buddhist monastery located 140 kilometers (86 miles) north of Bangkok, which specializes in treating drug addiction. 

“We usually have around 50 drug addicts and alcoholics, including about 10 Westerners,” says Mae Chee Katrisha, a British ex-heroin addict-turned-Buddhist nun, who is in charge of foreign patients.

In recent years, prior to travel restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 crisis, Thailand has become a leading destination for addicts from all over the world. 

Some undergo radical detoxes like the one offered at Thamkrabok; others choose to head to a luxury rehab in the country’s jungle-clad northern mountains. The facilities offer a relatively inexpensive alternative to Western treatments. But some experts warn that detoxing in a tropical setting far from home can be dangerous and increases the risk of relapse.