The Thai Temple Where You Go to Vomit

Thamkrabok is a Thai temple that treats addicts from all over the world; it is famous for its vomiting ceremony. When this temple is mentioned in the western media it is usually this cermony that gets the most attention. This is hardly surprising as the practice is just so unique; there are also those individuals who would even see it as a bit extreme. The vomiting is an important component of addiction treatment at Wat Thamkrabok but it is only a part of it.

The Purpose of the Wat Thamkrabok Vomiting Ceremony

One of the main motives behind the vomiting ceremony is that it speeds along the detoxification process. The medicine was discovered in the local hills by one of the founders of this Thai temple. Luang Por Yai is the much respected patriarch of Wat Tamkrabok . She discovered the special herbal mixture and realized its beneficial application. The medicine acts as an anti-emetic and induces vomiting which lasts for about fifteen minutes; patients drink scoops of water to help speed along the process and remove the herbs from their stomach.

The vomiting ceremony occurs in the evening while kneeling down in front of a gutter and drinking from a bucket of water. There is always a large crowd made up of monks and other patients who come along to offer support and sing songs of encouragement. The medicine is far from pleasant and vomiting this way can be upsetting. On the other hand though, most addicts will spend a large proportion of their life vomiting anyway – or at least this was my experience. This treatment occurs for the first five days spent in the rehab, but some monks have taken it every day for years.

My Experience with the Thamkrabok Temple Detox Vomiting Ceremony

I went through detox many times over the years and always found withdrawals unpleasant. It was my experience that the vomiting ceremony reduced the amount of time it took to go through withdrawals. My symptoms were much less severe than usual. After the first dose of the medicine I was able to eat solid food; it usually took me days into withdrawal before my appetite returned. I took the treatment at the same time as others who were withdrawing from heroin and methadone and they all reported similar experiences. Withdrawals are always hard but the medicine does seem to make things easier.

It is my view that the real purpose of the medicine goes way beyond just hurrying along the detoxification process. It teaches humility and puts addicts into a position of vulnerability where they are prepared to accept help. Many addicts suffer from arrogance and willfulness but it is hard to maintain this attitude when you are required to vomit daily in front of a group of strangers; the vomiting ceremony makes us teachable.

I believe that the vomiting ceremony of Wat Thamkrabok was a vital part of my recovery from addiction. It was part of my escape and I’ll always be grateful to it; that is not to say that I believe it would work for everyone. People do say that the temple is the toughest treatment facility in the world, but it really is as hard as you make it. A few minutes vomiting each day is a small price to pay if it can lead to a life free of addiction.

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2 thoughts on “The Thai Temple Where You Go to Vomit

  1. Paul I’ve just come from Mike’s post about the Monk Shops in Thailand. Those orange buckets would come in handy at the vomiting ceremony. What a lovely name for a ceremony. My local town has one every Sunday at about two in the morning. Its mainly youngsters who take part.

    I guess Wat Thamkrabok’s detox process is what we call the good old shock therapy. A bit like the American boot camps they have for wayward kids.

    Getting the addiction out of your body quicker has got to be the best kind of treatment. I like the point you make about patients losing their arrogance due to the vomiting in public stance. I can see how perhaps that creates a big bonding between many of the ‘inmates’.

    Out of interest, do many people just cut and run, by that I mean do a good percentage of addicts find the therapy just too tough and pack up and go. I’m guessing the answer is no because Wat Thamkrabok is a kind of last chance saloon. If you fail this then Mr Maker is probably not too far around the corner.

  2. Hi Martyn, I would say most people stick the treatment until the end. A lot of patients do go through a stage of wanting to leave but the monks are skilled at dealing with this. They have your money and passport locked and the only clothes you have looks like a prison uniform.

    It is usually after the first dose a medicine when some people decide they want to go home. The monks will use all type of delaying tactics before giving you back your stuff – they know that it is the withdrawals symptoms that are breaking your resolve. As you know the Thais are great at fobbing people off; you think the monk has gone to get your stuff but you don’t see him until the next day. Most people will decide to stay if they are given time to think things through. One notable exception is Pete Doherty (UK celeb and junkie). He did leave before finishing the medicine and said some nasty things about the temple to the press.

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