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
Sarson, head of East-West Detox
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.
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.
monastery is an impressive place
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".
- both Rebecca and Simon have had middle-class upbringings
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.
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.
had acupuncture treatment to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal
- she had 15 years worth of drugs in her system
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.
and Rebecca prepare for the ordeal of r medicine
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.
Hans, spiritual counsellor: "they must learn not to feed
the darkness... the past cannot be changed"
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.
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.
programme airs on Thursday, 19 June 2003, at 9pm on BBC2.