Thailand’s “Vomit Temple” Offers Alternative Treatment to Aussie Meth Addicts

By May Wilkerson 10/01/15

Can "purging" your demons really cure addiction?

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Known as the “Vomit Temple,” the Wat Thamkrabok in Thailand is a no-cost drug rehabilitation center run by Buddhist monks. And it’s not for the faint of heart, or stomach.

Upon checking in, patients must vow to stay off a list drugs, and are threatened with a curse if they break their word. Every day, patients at the center consume a “secret” cocktail made up of 120 herbal ingredients, which makes them vomit. They must continue the treatment for at least five days, a process that is believed to cure their addiction by “purging out their demons.” They only get one chance to get clean.

The temple has been functioning as a rehab center since 1959, attracting numerous foreigners from across the world. It has gained media attention as the subject of a new documentary about Australians who are turning to Thamkrabok to treat their meth addiction. Meth, known overseas as “ice,” is a rising problem in Australia, where over 70,000 people are estimated to be dependent on the drug.

The documentary claims that the country has failed to address the problem, driving increasing numbers of addicts to places like Thamkrabok seeking an alternative form of treatment.

Once there, patients are in for a grueling daily routine, earning the temple a reputation as one of the toughest rehabs in the world. "The routine at the temple involves going out to the yard to help with daily tasks, meals and then, of course, there's the vomiting,” says Steve, a patient from Perth featured in the documentary. “Vomiting is at 3pm every day. Foreigners must vomit for the first five days. The vomiting is intense.”

Steve describes the mixture the patients are forced to drink as "pretty rank.” “It looks shocking and it's very ... pepper hot,” he says. “I wouldn't have a clue what's in it, but you just knock it back and then start drinking as much water as you can, more is better. It just upsets your stomach and you'll vomit – a lot." He ended up at the center after his wife caught him shooting meth, and he claims the treatment has worked. “It saved my life,” he said.

Thamkrabok is not the only Thai facility treating foreigners with addiction. Last year, an estimated 1,300 foreigners traveled to Thailand to go to rehab to treat everything from drug or alcohol addictions to eating disorders and depression. The country’s renowned Hope Rehab is a high-end luxury rehab that has attracted rich and famous clientele from around the world such as U.K. singer Pete Doherty. Patients at this center have to pay $10,000, and perks include beach views, a luxury facility, activities like horseback riding, and not having to drink a vomit-inducing potion every day.

Like Thamkrabok, the facility has seen a rise in meth-addicted clientele from Australia. "I need to be grateful for the Australian Government for not providing adequate treatment,” said the center’s founder Simon Mott, a recovering addict himself. “ We've been able to build a strong foundation of having a lot of clients come from Australia."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.