The Russian Who "Cures" Thousands of Addicts

By Mei Schultz 07/12/13

Yefim Shubentsov, aka "The Mad Russian," tells The Fix how he has "liberated" over 150,000 people from addictions and phobias—using only his hands.

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Yefim Shubentsov of Brookline, MA, also known as “The Mad Russian,” is a hybrid mix of shaman, doctor, and therapist who has a mysterious "cure" for a range of addictions. Since arriving in the US from Moscow in 1979, he has allegedly cured over 150,000 cases of addiction, phobias, eating disorders, and general “bad habits,” with his unique approach. Shubentsov charges $65 for a group session, which includes giving group advice along with individual healing. The sessions take place in an old house—which one patient describes as "sort of like your grandma's house, but a little shadier." During a session, Shubentsov "prances around the room," pointing and gesticulating, but with no physical contact. After a single session, most of his clients report being freed from addiction, pain, or psychological disorders, Shubentsov tells The Fix. He explains that he uses energy “like an instrument, like a hammer,” to eliminate a problem. He differentiates his method from hypnotism by emphasizing that he “cures people whether they believe me or not.” 

Robin, 65, of Lincoln, MA, quit cigarettes six years ago with Shubentsov’s help after smoking on and off for 40 years. "He spoke for two solid hours in a heavy Russian accent, but didn’t harangue us at all. He just told us about himself," she tells The Fix. "I’m pretty sure he was trying to hypnotize us, I can’t figure out what else it was.” She describes the process as "interesting, not scary or surreal" and says she was "bemused by the whole thing," but she has not smoked—or craved—a cigarette since her session in 2007. But his methods don't work for everyone. William, from NYC, says he attended a session in 2001 with "a couple dozen middle aged people, mostly women" and recalls that Shubentsov "yelled a lot about not drinking soda or taking elevators." Afterwards, William tells us he only lasted three hours without a smoke and then "smoked five cigarettes in a row."

Shubentsov has never advertised his services, but is well known in the local medical community. Last year, ABC News reported that Dr. Douglass Powell, of the Harvard University health service, invited Shubentsov to treat a group of his patients who were not responding to conventional medical treatment for addiction or pain. About half of the cases reported a reduction in pain or other symptoms after a session. Shubentsov tells us that he attributes his “really, really effective" method and high success rate to his “huge expertise.” He has been practicing this kind of healing for over 40 years, and began in Moscow by studying ancient Chinese medicine, which also relies on reading the "flow of energy." His book, Cure Your Cravings: Learn to Use this Revolutionary System to Conquer Compulsions, explains how his principles—“inner toughness, common sense, creativity, cleverness, patience, and endurance”—can help anyone to free themselves from an addiction.

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Mei Schultz is a copy editor, journalist and uUndergraduate Research Assistant at Columbia University Medical Center. You can find her on Linkedin.