From Opium Centre to Luxury Rehab Centre: Chiang Mai Then And Now

Chiang Mai was once home to individuals addicted to drugs, but now, it has become welcomed luxury rehab center and facilities, offering up to $10,000 packages for people looking for rehabilitation.

A Chickened Past

In the 1950’s, it was the gateway for the opium trade. The production of opium took off, but with the Chinese government’s effort to ban the crop, businesses moved south. The Golden Triangle–the border between Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar–was an inaccessible are with hills and a cool climate. It became the best place for people in the business to grow opium undetected.

The production grew in the 1960’s and ten years after, it was the largest producer of opium all over the world.

The Stigma

According to Dylan Kerr, a counsellor who works for the Dawn, Chiang Mai had a long history with drugs, and it is not something easy to get away from. He explains that a former client once shared that there was once a heroin cult in the 1970’s called the Orange People, and they used to smuggle heroin from Chiang Mai to Australia. He adds that the cult members would inject heroin on the stigmata, believing that when Jesus was crucified, his blood was heroin, and taking drugs this way was a way to gain religious experience.

Chiang Mai Today

In the recent years, the area has taken a 180-degree turn, as it became a hub for luxury rehab center, clinics, and wellness facilities. It has become a place for troubled individuals to seek help in recovering from their addition.

Some of the most notable centers in the area are the Next Step, Lanna Rehab, the Dawn, Jintara, and the Edge. They are some of the popular choices for patients coming in from the UK.

The client that Kerr talked about is now in his 60’s and is sober and cult-free. The former Orange People member returned to the source of their heroin for treatment, and has come out a changed man.

Chiang Mai is now the focus of the Royal Project Foundation, in the efforts to minimize the cultivation of opium in the area. The project was set up in the 1960’s, and has been helpful together with the Thai government’s effort to crack down the drug trafficking routes after the 1984 campaign against opium.