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18th June 2003
Kill or Cure: Constant Craving
Rebecca and Simon vomiting
Rebecca and Simon vomit out the toxins as part of the intensive detox treatment

Rebecca and Simon went on an extreme detox programme at a Thai monastery to rid themselves of serious heroin habits.

A documentary to air on Thursday 19th June follows their stories.


Guide to addictions


East-West Detox
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An Australian study found that less than 30% of addicts studied who had been to the monastery went back on drugs within a year

This compares with 98% through conventional treatments

Of the 100,000 people who have been treated at the monastery, the vast majority are Thai people who are treated for free
View a printable version of this page.

Born in Maidenhead, Rebecca started on methadone at the age of 13 to ease the pain of an abusive relationship with an older man. For the last 17 years she has been on methadone, valium, heroin and other drugs. She had tried seven times in the past to kick, and failed. When she asked for treatment, she was told funding was not available.

Mike Sarson
Mike Sarson, head of East-West Detox

This led her in desperation to East-West Detox, a charity run by Mike Sarson. The charity takes addicts to a monastery in Thailand where the approach to treatment is very different from ideas in the West.

The central difference is that addicts are encouraged to feel all the pain of withdrawal; normally addicts are "knocked out" during the extreme pain of detoxing. The monks give them a blend of 108 herbs and barks which accelerates the body's purification through vomiting and eases the symptoms of withdrawal.

ThamKrabok Monastery
ThamKrabok monastery is an impressive place

No painkillers or sleeping tablets are given. The monks, half of whom are recovered addicts themselves, believe that it is important to fully experience withdrawal and take the opportunity to confront the problems in people's lives that lead them to addiction. They call it "the journey of the hero".

Lambourne - both Rebecca and Simon have had middle-class upbringings

Simon started on heroin aged 18 in Lambourne. He joined the parachute regiment to try to separate himself from that life, but when he came back on leave had an OD on some contaminated heroin. He was then discharged from the army and fell back into addiction. A year in prison kept him off drugs, but two weeks after coming out, he was using again. His mother eventually decided on a tough love approach, throwing him and his addict brother out on the street. It was during this period suffering withdrawal that Simon asked for help, as he had never fought the psychological side of addiction before.

Both Simon and Rebecca feel that methadone is not the answer, and that Western detox programmes are unsuccessful because the treat the symptoms but not the cause. They are both converts to the East-West Detox approach, where emphasis is put on experiencing the horror of withdrawal and developing mental strength - analysing and fighting the demons that drove them to addiction.

Rebecca had acupuncture treatment to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal - she had 15 years worth of drugs in her system

Simon feels this is fundamentally different from the approach that programmes such as the Twelve Steps take, where addicts are putting responsibility for their lives in an outside force.

Simon and Rebecca
Simon and Rebecca prepare for the ordeal of r medicine

When the treatment is ended, addicts from the UK are sent back here to residential homes where they can focus on maintaining a drug-free life. The monks warn to watch out for nurses who are in the habit of "looking after" people, as they feel it can result in a victim mentality which is counter-productive. They stress the Buddhist virtue of Mindfulness.

Phra Hans
Phra Hans, spiritual counsellor: "they must learn not to feed the darkness... the past cannot be changed"

Both are now clean. Simon had a minor relapse a few months ago but is back on course. He is steering himself strongly towards fitness - he is starting a course in countryside management in September, but is doing a marathon and an adventure race before that. He has moved to Devon to get away from the social circles of drug use.

Rebecca is finding it hard to adjust to real life, as she feels she has lived the majority of her life in the grip of addiction. She lives in Reading and has not relapsed.

The programme airs on Thursday, 19 June 2003, at 9pm on BBC2.

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