REHAB tourism is on the rise as drug-addicted Aussies head to cheap Asian destinations usually reserved for holiday-makers.
Drug users are checking in at “luxury” resort-style rehab centres in Thailand and Bali because of waiting lists in Australia. A private bed at an Asian facility costs about $12,000 a month – compared with Australian private clinics which charge between $15,000 and $135,000 a month.
But there are warnings addicts could put themselves at risk overseas because of easy access to drugs in countries with tough legal penalties.
The Sanctuary, Byron Bay
Three weeks: $101,000
Four weeks: $135,000
Recovery House; $12,000 month
Australia’s most expensive rehab facility catering to the top end. .
Thai rehab operators say Aussies comprise the majority of foreign clients seeking help and an increasing number are addicted to methamphetamines.
Crystal meth use more than doubled in Australia between 2010 and 2013, ABS data shows, and has sparked a national “ice” taskforce.
Queensland has a few residential rehab centres, either private or NGO-operated, but most have waiting lists. Other treatment options include counselling, the most common treatment type, detox and pharmacotherapy such as methadone.
1 week: $3,800
1 month: $12,000
3 months: $33,000
One of the best known Thai facilities, The Cabin in Chiang Mai, has treated more than 400 Australians since it opened in 2010.
Martin Peters, chief operating officer at DARA, one of the largest clinics in South-East Asia, said about 40 per cent of DARA’s clients were Australian and most of them had a serious meth addiction.
“One of the reasons people are coming here is the lack of ability to find an available place in Australia quickly,” said Mr Peters. “I am told there are waiting lists, especially with the (government funded) facilities.
“And those that seek private treatment find the costs of treatment are not as cheap.”
Wade Dupuis, intake co-ordinator at Serenity in Koh Samui, Thailand, which opened in October, said all his current foreign residents were Australians.
“When someone makes a decision they need help, they can’t wait. They need help now,” Mr Dupuis said.
But experts warn Australians can waste money flying to foreign countries where the quality of service is unknown.
The Health Retreat, Sunshine Coast
8 days: $8,950 (including airfares from anywhere in Australia)
29 days: $16,950 (including airfares from anywhere in Australia)
“It might be cheaper to go overseas but I doubt it’s better,” said Professor Jake Najman, director of the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre.
Prof Najman said cheaper treatment such as counselling was just as effective as residential rehab, which in itself did not have a high success rate.
“Research on treatment basically shows that most treatment doesn’t work,” he said. “The notion that treatment cures you is a farce. The nature of addiction is that it’s a chronic recurring condition.
“The outcomes of most forms of treatment are relatively similar but some cost more than others.”
Brendan Pont from the Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies said services were “stretched” but most people could be referred to interim help.
“We know in Queensland treatment is evidence-based and we follow quality standards but we can’t guarantee that overseas,” he said.
Founder of The Health Retreat on the Sunshine Coast, Francis McLachlan, has placed warnings on his website to discourage addicts from going to Asia.
Mr McLachlan said some clients had come to him after failed treatment in Thailand.
“If money is an issue you’re better off in a hotel room talking to Beyond Blue,” he said. “The problem they have by going overseas is they have got a serious addiction. They will sell their mother to get a hit and therein lies the danger.
“That’s my biggest concern; if you get caught all of a sudden it’s a major issue for you and the family.”