Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Many Psychologists Does it Take...

"How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but the lightbulb has to really want to change."

Today we visited the Thanyarak Chiang Mai Hospital, a drug dependence treatment center. Afterwards, for the first time since arriving in Thailand, I cried.

First let me give you some basic information about the place, and then I will get more into my reaction.

Addicts arrive at the Thanyarak Chiang Mai Hospital either voluntarily or (more commonly) because they were arrested. The patients go through pre-admission (with drug tests), detoxification, rehabilitation, and follow-up/aftercare. The people arrested and required to be in treatment stay four months. After those four months, the patients go through a follow-up process involving scheduled hospital visits, phone calls, and home visits. They treat all ages of people. Sometimes even babies are admitted who are addicted because of their addicted mother’s breast milk.

At Thanyarak Chiang Mai Hospital, addicts are not treated as criminals but as patients who need help.

The Group with Our Hosts at Thanyarak Chiang Mai Hospital

Angus told us a quote that I could not find when I searched online for it. I don't know the author (maybe I didn't hear Angus correctly), but it is still powerful.

“Reason is and always will be the handmaid of the passions.”

In other words, we use reason to justify our passions. For example, in a social situation, we might use reason to tell ourselves that having an alcoholic drink is okay because everyone else is doing it so it will be safe and fun. Or people can reason that smoking a cigarette might make them feel calmer in stressful situations.

We were given the amazing opportunity to not only tour the facilities of Thanyarak Chiang Mai Hospital, but we were also able to ask questions of the recovering addicts in treatment there.

One woman was addicted to ya-ba (meth) for years, but she didn't even realize the negative effects until she was arrested and was educated at the hospital. Now she is confident she will not return to her addiction. It made me incredibly sad that this woman's life could have been so different had she just received more education on the negative effects of drugs.

I'll try not to get too personal in this post, but I do want to say that this trip was a very emotional one for me. To see the pain caused by drugs reminds me of my personal interactions with people I care deeply about. I wanted more than anything to be able to help everyone there. I will say that it did make me happy to see how well-cared for they are at this hospital. That amount of open-mindedness and true caring is something I feel is lacking in the U.S., where drug addicts and people struggling are made to feel ashamed and these topics are taboo.

Nina asked me why I cried and we talked about it for a little while. I feel a desire to help and a sense of helplessness, but I also feel a sense of jealousy. I wish the same amount of open-mindedness could be found in the U.S. for the people who truly need it, and I hope that I can bring back some pieces of this culture I love so much.

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