If you or a loved one is addicted to a substance, seeking treatment is crucial to preserving and recovering mental and physical health. Addiction treatment is an essential step in not only detoxing, but also in building the skills and mindset to live a happy and fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol. To this extent, many modern programs rely on isolating users from physical causes of stress and anxiety, removing them from the life and factors contributing to substance abuse and using that time to build coping and stress management skills. Rehabilitation centers typically work best in relaxing areas such as beach and mountainside areas, where visitors can relax, feel less like they are in prison, and more able to focus fully on their treatment and recovery. Monastic recovery is one aspect of this form of treatment, where inpatient care is removed to a very remote location and often approached from a point of strict discipline. For example, Tham Krabok, the monastery, uses Buddhist prinicples and discipline to build mental forbearance with the intent of forcing addicts to move beyond their addiction.
How Does Monastic Addiction Treatment Work?
While there are relatively few monasteries offering addiction treatment, most work in the same way and with a similar concept. Patients visit a very remote location where they are often stripped of technology and removed from stress or anxiety inducing aspects of their life. With no contact with the outside world, patients are forced to acclimate to a new environment and follow the teachings of the monastery.
However, this is usually where monastic addiction treatment diverges from inpatient care. Where a standard rehabilitation clinic will offer medical supported detox, medical care, and prescription medication to prevent seizures and other dangerous withdrawal symptoms, monastic treatment is often rough and unsupervised. For example, at Tham Krabok, patients are given a brown liquid forcing them to vomit excessively each day. This process of ritual vomiting is intended to clean the body but earns Tham Krabok its reputation as one of the toughest rehabilitation clinics in the world.
At a rehabilitation clinic, days are often made up of classes, clinical therapy, behavioral therapy, and a range of activities intended to support learning, healing, and behavioral change. At a monastery, days often begin at 4:30, where patients must help to clean and do chores, followed by ritual chanting and praying. Often, there is only one meal per day. This form of strict discipline is intended to give patients a foundation with which to build a sober life on, but often requires that persons experiencing hunger and withdrawal symptoms do work and participate in manual labor.
The result is more of an intense detox session, rather than therapy – in a strict and often spartan environment which forces addicts to face themselves and their choices.
Does Monastic Addiction Treatment Work?
Monastic addiction treatment is increasingly sought out by those seeking an alternative to western rehabilitation practices. For example, many claim that they want to avoid methadone and buprenorphine, and any other drugs they might be administered. Unfortunately, there’s very little data backing up how effective monastic treatment centers are once patients leave. With no behavioral or cognitive therapy, and no counseling to help recovering addicts face the factors that led them to addiction in the first place, long-term results outside of the treat are far from guaranteed. That’s also more than evident in the number of recovered patients who remain at monasteries, typically in staff and faculty positions.
For example, most modern addiction treatment programs approach addiction as a symptom or a side effect of underlying traumas and behavioral problems. Trauma ranging from car accidents to high levels of stress at work or at home each greatly increase the risk of addiction or substance abuse. People with a history of sexual abuse, who are at risk for discrimination and homophobia, and who work very high stress jobs such as doctors or lawyers are as much as 40% more likely to become addicted to a substance. Modern treatment programs work to recognize and treat those underlying issues, giving users the tools and skills to tackle their past, their mental disorders, and triggers to approach life without using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or escape.
That’s important because many people going into recovery will have to continue to face the same problems that drove them to substance use in the first place. Without building coping techniques, support groups, or actively working to change the behavior underlying addiction, it is likely that many people seeking treatment will simply relapse once they enter their original environment.
However, there are no long-term studies tracking the efficacy of monastic treatment. Without those studies, it’s impossible to say for sure if monastic addiction treatment works or if it doesn’t work. However, with up to 30 days in a completely remote environment, often thousands of miles from home and with no access to drugs of any kind, it’s an effective way to detox and remove drugs and alcohol from your body in the first place.
Is Monastic Addiction Treatment Safe?
One of the largest concerns for those considering monastic addiction treatment is not if monastic treatment works, it’s if it’s safe. For example, most addiction treatment centers will either taper substance use off to reduce the risks of dangerous or harmful side effects. In other cases, rehabilitation clinics offer prescription medication to ease withdrawal symptoms. Many treatment centers also use treatments including buprenorphine and methadone to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings and possibly to prevent users from voluntarily beginning drug use again. While many people seeking monastic addiction, treatment are looking to avoid these ‘soft’ approaches to treatment, the goal of those treatment methods is typically to reduce the danger inherent in withdrawing or detoxing from a drug. For example, even withdrawing from alcohol can result in seizures, dangerous levels of dehydration, and often side effects that can hospitalize patients.
Monastic treatment offers no such safeguards, which means that patients who experience seizures, extreme dehydration from vomiting, and other health problems are on their own. Without the backup of medical support staff, it is not always safe.
If you or a loved one is addicted to a substance, there are many ways to seek treatment. Patients are drawn to monastic addiction recovery for a variety of reasons including low costs and isolated surroundings, as well as the lack of prescription medication.
However, you can seek out many of these factors through local alternatives, including resort-like recovery programs offering quality care without the use of buprenorphine or methadone (although both are controlled medication that is difficult to abuse). These treatment centers will cost more, but you can get help from your insurance. You can also seek out highly isolated environments, where you will be given training, classes, and regular therapy to support your recovery. More importantly, you will be given personalized behavioral therapy and counseling, dual treatment for a cooccurring mental disorder such as anxiety or depression where needed, nutrition therapy, and help and support when you go back to your life. In fact, many rehabilitation centers offer transition programs such as halfway house, ongoing support, and job assistance to ensure that patients transition seamlessly back into the real world.
No matter what you choose to do, keep in mind that you should seek out and get behavioral therapy and counseling as part of your recovery. Whether that’s after detox at monastic addiction treatment or during a rehabilitation program which includes everything is up to you.
If you or a loved one is suffering from drugs or alcohol addiction and wants to know more about monastic addiction treatment or other treatment options, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are here to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.