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.”
A CRIMINOLOGIST says the Bali Nine pair awaiting execution in Indonesia are being punished worse than terrorists and their deaths will be an opportunity missed.
University of the Sunshine Coast’s Bachelor of Criminology and Justice co-ordinator Professor Tim Prenzler condemned the pending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
Prof Prenzler said he agreed with public sentiment that the pair had turned the corner and had been rehabilitated.
He argued they could be best served educating others about the perils of the drug trade rather than being killed in what he believed would be an unsuccessful attempt at deterrence.
“I would agree with the general comment that they do appear to be repentant and to show evidence of rehabilitation and I think they could be used more effectively,” Prof Prenzler said. “There are other Indonesian cases where terrorists haven’t been sentenced to death.”
Prof Prenzler said he did not think the execution of Chan and Sukumaran would have any impact on the Indonesian-Australian drug trade.
“Unfortunately a lot of these people are young men who think they’re bulletproof…they think they’re smart and then there are other drug mules who are coerced, so I think it’s unlikely to have any impact on the illegal drug supply to and from Indonesia,” he said.
Francis McLachlan, of the hinterland rehabilitation centre The Health Retreat, said he dealt with drug-addicted people daily, and believed that Chan and Sukumaran had “done their time” and could be better served educating drug addicts and offenders about how to break away from the cycle.
“To take someone’s life is a pretty absolute thing to do… they could be advocates for not using or dealing drugs,” Mr McLachlan said.
“People like this can give so much back if given the chance.”
Mr McLachlan likened their pending executions as “double jeopardy” after already being subjected to 10 years in prison.
“I’m the most anti-drug person on the planet, I see what it does to people,” he said.
“At least give them a chance. You’ve got to give people a chance to change their lives. They can make a huge difference, particularly with the 20 to 30-year-old age group.”