Images from the East-West website

    ‘Vomit up your past’: a truly sick-making ‘detox cure’ for addicts

    9 March 2016

    Puke your guts up in order to keep off drugs. Honestly, I thought the detox industry was incapable of surprising me with its fatuous claims, but then I read this:

    Take a vow (satjja), a promise to yourself and to whatever higher energy you believe in. A solemn declaration about your truth – a sacred act to connect you with your willpower and with something beyond, that will keep you drug-free for the rest of your life.

    Drink the detoxification medicine, to purge the toxins from your body. Made from over 100 different herbs, it is a gift from the plant world and from the monks to you. Drink it and feel it gather to it all the poisons you have carried with you.

    Vomit up your past. Release the beliefs that have kept you addicted to your drug of choice. Remove all poison from your body. Cleanse yourself of all those thoughts that no longer serve you.

    You will reach the depths of despair. Hang on, You will go through it.

    Welcome to the East-West detox project, which is run from Reading, Berks, but performs its rituals in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand.

    For a thousand quid, addicts can spend a week at the Thamkrabok monastery, where they take a ‘solemn vow’ to complete the rituals and abstain from addictive substances. The charming images above are from the project’s website.

    I’m sure it works for some people. I’m not saying East-West is a scam and it has the support of at least one psychiatrist. It also claims, on the basis of ‘research’, that it obtains better results than NHS treatment options. (I’m not convinced: it’s not comparing like with like.)

    But there are so many reasons why this is a risk addicts shouldn’t take. Here are a few:

    1. Projectile vomiting – yup, that’s what is promised, not just your common or garden head-down-the-loo barf at the end of a party – is a dangerous thing to induce (though there are times when emetics are necessary to eliminate poisons).

    2. A course of vomiting, accompanied by baloney about its spiritual effects, runs the risk of triggering eating disorders in addicts.

    3. There is no evidence at all that ‘cleansing’ the body through the elimination of certain naturally occurring substances has an effect on impulse control disorders associated with addiction, which have many and complex causes.

    4. A charity has no business promising vulnerable addicts that it will take them ‘to the depths of despair’ before recovery.

    5. Likewise, I’m appalled that addicts commit themselves to a vow – which  if they are Christians they can make to Jesus – that the very nature of their problem makes difficult to keep. The 12 steps do not screw with people’s minds in this way. (Incidentally, the website features photographs of a man who looks like a Catholic monk. Who is he?)

    Amazingly, the East-West meditation-and-puking cure used to receive money from the NHS. Not any more. Let’s keep it that way.