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West Austalians flock to offshore rehab
Luxury resort to fight drug addiction. Picture: The Cabin

West Australians - from models to mining engineers - are fuelling a growing market for a Thai alcohol and drug treatment centre.

Three years after the opening of The Cabin, an upmarket rehabilitation facility near Chiang Mai, figures reveal a third of patients are from Australia, and half of those are from WA, spending upwards of $12,000 to kick their addiction.

It is worlds apart from the spartan setting of traditional detox clinics, instead providing a softer option for recovering addicts in a riverside resort that resembles a five-star luxury hotel, complete with swimming pools, four-poster king-size beds and ensuite bathrooms.

An extension of the $60 billion global medical tourism industry, the treatment program is attracting people from across the world who are choosing to head offshore to deal with their demons and protect their privacy.

According to The Cabin's management, while the youngest patient from WA has been 18 and the oldest 60, most are aged 30 to 45 and include successful and respected businesspeople, housewives and medical professionals who want anonymity.

The drug of choice for most WA clients is alcohol, making up 60 per cent of the addictions treated, followed by 20 per cent with methamphetamine addiction and another 10 per cent treated for cannabis use.

A small but growing number of patients are hooked on prescription drugs such as painkillers. At $12,000 for a 28-day program, but many staying on for 90 days, management says it is still cheaper than private treatment in Australia.

Psychologist Cameron Brown said patients came from a range of backgrounds. "It offers many advantages over Australian clinics, firstly because of its affordability in terms of private rehabilitation, and because Thailand is close to Australia but far enough away to provide anonymity," he said. "It's also about getting away from the people, places and things that trigger alcohol or drug use by providing a sanctuary from the norm and allowing people to comprehensively break that cycle by being in another country."

Mr Brown said the centre had lower operating costs but still used Western-trained doctors, clinical psychiatrists and psychologists, without any religious overtones.

Thailand's luxury resort to beat drug addiction. Picture: The Cabin

It used a 12-step program, along with cognitive behavioural therapy, physical fitness and a focus on dealing with drug and alcohol cravings. It cited a success rate of 96 per cent based on those who completed the program.

Mr Brown said 30 people could stay at any one time and more than 300 had gone through the program so far. "It's more holistic than looking at just their medical condition, and it's more about free choice and self-motivation rather than having a lock-down prison-like approach with forced treatment," he said.

"I think that's why it works, and keeps on working even when they go home."

Picture: The Cabin