Parents of undergrad addict send him to $19,000-a-month rehab in Thailand

Parents of undergrad addict send him to $19,000-a-month rehab in Thailand
The Cabin in Chiang Mai is a rehab centre that houses and treats addicts - both drug and alcohol - including those from Singapore. The estate's unique selling point, especially for Singaporeans, is the promise of anonymity.
PHOTO: The Cabin in Chiang Mai

He was 21 and a student at the National University of Singapore.

But he was also hooked on methamphetamine (Ice) and couldn't kick the habit.

Shawn (not his real name) eventually dropped out and his parents shipped him off to The Cabin.

They feared it was a matter of time before he was arrested for drug use in Singapore.

Treatment there isn't cheap - it is US$14,000 (S$19,000) a month. On average, a client stays for three months.

Mr Tony Tan, 40, a social science graduate from the Australian College of Applied Psychology, is the only Singaporean therapist at The Cabin.

He says Shawn's habit started with the clubbing scene.

Shawn was making decent money as a private tutor.

Mr Tan says: "That sudden boost in income was one of the triggers of his addiction, but he didn't see it because he thought as a grown-up, he knew what he was doing.

"As with the eventual outcome of most addictions, it started getting in the way of his day-to-day life.

"Shawn was forced to drop out because he failed subjects and, subsequently, he failed to progress to the second year."

Shawn's parents suspected he was on drugs and the final straw came when he blew all the tuition money they had given him.

They found out when the university sent them a reminder.

His parents then put him on a three-hour flight to Thailand.

When he first got there, Shawn didn't want to do anything.

"In fact, he didn't even want to get out of bed," recalls Mr Tan.

"All he wanted to do was stay in his room and watch TV."


Singaporeans make up about 60 per cent of the Asians who check into The Cabin. Many go there for fear of getting arrested if they were to see a doctor in Singapore.

Singapore law makes it compulsory for doctors to inform the Central Narcotics Bureau if they are treating any person for drug addiction.

Of the 70 Singaporean clients under Mr Tan's care during his five years at The Cabin, Shawn's case stood out.

"He was forced to get help there because his parents didn't want to risk sending him to a treatment centre in Singapore," says Mr Tan who has been a counsellor at The Cabin since 2011.

"They were worried that he would end up getting charged and jailed."

At least 2 in 3 drug users are below 30

Recently, a number of celebrities were hauled up for drug use.

They include Ah Boys To Men star Noah Yap, 22, who on March 2 was sentenced to nine months in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) detention barracks after he was convicted of consuming cannabis.

Yap, who was in the midst of national service, was charged in the SAF Court Martial Centre for offences he committed during his time at the SAF Music and Drama Company, after enlistment in May 2014.

Separately, local model-club DJ Tenashar and her boyfriend Thorsten Nolte are on the wanted list of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

DJ Tenashar, whose real name is Debbie Valerie Long, 31, and 42-year-old Nolte, who is radio DJ Jamie Yeo's ex-husband, were arrested last October for "drug-related offences", says a CNB spokesman.

The arrests threw the spotlight on yuppies and young offenders.

CNB numbers show that at least two in three new drug abusers are under 30.


CNB tells The New Paper on Sunday that it is seeing more cases of contamination among youth, where drug abusers share or introduce their peers to drug abuse.

A CNB spokesman says: "A typical scenario is where a youth comes into contact with drugs and establishes a relationship with the person who can supply him with it.

"This youth would then introduce and influence his friends to consume drugs together.

"The extent of the contamination is dependent on the size of the youth's social circle."


A study by the Task Force On Youths And Drugs last year found that the younger demographic tends to have lax attitude towards the different substances.

It showed that many young people perceived cannabis as a soft drug, and that the harms and addictiveness of cannabis are less serious than tobacco.

The report added: "Younger people may also hold the misconception that 'Ice' and cannabis are less addictive and less harmful than heroin."

Resilienz Clinic psychiatrist Thomas Lee, an addictions specialist of more than 10 years, says attitudes have changed.

"They perceive drugs as something that's not as harsh as it actually is.

"They seem to view it in a more recreational manner and that it's no longer a danger," he says.


The Daily Telegraph reported that hit TV show Breaking Bad may be the cause of a shocking rise in crystal meth usage across the UK and Europe.

The report said parts of the EU are now being flooded with methamphetamine.


Dr Lee says he has seen an increase in the number of abusers between 20 and 39.

"The main reason is they can afford the drugs," he says of the yuppie abusers.

"Most of them justify the abuse by saying it is a means of escape from their stressful lifestyle, demanding jobs and troubled relationships."

These were three common reasons his patients offered him in the 10 years he has been in the business.

"Most of them don't know how to handle interpersonal relationships that lead to stress and subsequently to either consuming alcohol or drugs in hopes of escaping," he adds.

"The stressful lifestyle stems from the competition among peers while having to keep up with rising costs."


Dr Lee says illicit drugs appear to be more easily available now.

"Drugs are easily available nowadays. You go to any nightclub and you would be able to find it," he adds.

"Some of my patients were able to make synthetic drugs in their homes.

"Some of them even had theirs delivered to their homes after purchasing it online."

Counsellors at the Pertapis halfway house say some of their patients were supplied by young expatriates.

A spokesman tells TNPS: "It is assumed by local abusers that the suppliers are expats and travellers from abroad.

"For example, some of the expats and international students bring drugs with them (into Singapore), influencing the young locals.

"We've heard that they usually bring in Ice and ecstasy from the Philippines, heroin from Malaysia and marijuana and amphetamine from Indonesia and Thailand."

By the numbers


3,338 drug abusers arrested

40 per cent of them under 30

69 per cent of new drug abusers under 30


77 per cent: Methamphetamine

12 per cent: Cannabis

9 per cent: Heroin

2 per cent: Other drugs including ecstasy, ketamine, nimetazepam, cocaine

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