Nicole overcomes ice addiction at Thai rehab centre
TWEED Heads mother of two and recovering ice addict Nicole is part of a national trend of "rehab tourism" drawing thousands of Australians to South-East Asia to fight their addictions.
The clinical support officer started smoking marijuana at age 13, drinking alcohol a year later and dabbling with amphetamines when she was 18.
She was able to hold down a full-time job despite her addiction soon leading to week-long binges, only pausing her drug abuse when she was pregnant or breast feeding.
"Most women, when pregnant, crave certain foods or chocolate," she said.
"All I wanted was a line of speed, a cigarette and a glass of wine."
Nicole could see her drug use spiralling out of control and moved to Tweed Heads for a fresh start after separating from her children's father in 2013.
She got in with the wrong crowd and back into drug abuse.
Desperation soon led to resolve, and Nicole reached out to the DARA Drug and Alcohol Rehab centre in Thailand for help.
When she boarded a plane for Thailand at the end of 2014, she was in the pit of her addiction.
She said the counsellors were mostly recovering addicts themselves and could read her like a book.
"They were completely on the ball, able to identify my weaknesses, and to push me about them. They understood my struggle," Nicole said.
"I had originally booked in for the four-week treatment course, but I extended it to six weeks when I was there, and I can honestly say the life skills I learned in those six weeks were more beneficial than anything I ever learned in school."
DARA treatment director Dr Phil Townsend said Australians were heading to Thailand in record numbers to beat their addictions offshore.
"Australians, who represent 31% of our DARA Thailand clientele, are unceremoniously renowned for being the world's biggest gamblers and users of ecstasy, the second highest abusers of prescription opioid treatments, the world's third highest users of methamphetamines, the fourth highest users of cocaine, and the seventh highest users of marijuana," he said.
Australians made up only 14.5% of the centre's visitors in 2010.
"We treated more Australian men than women during the same period, and in fact, witnessed a 16% increase in the number of men visiting our facility.
"This surge in clientele may be largely attributed to the long waiting lists of Australian public rehabilitation clinics, the high cost of private clinics, and their location in an environment with which the addicted individual is familiar, and therefore, easily able to feed their addiction."