The Kusnacht Practice is probably one of the most closed Swiss clinics. If its doctors do make public speeches or give interviews, they do so for participation in specialized congresses in subjects which are considered important for public information.
The patients who come here are not revealed even if they are famous or members of royal families. Their anonymity is ensured by long non-disclosure agreements. It is clear that problems like alcoholism or drug addiction must be treated far away from the public eye or noise… Dependencies can imperceptibly happen to people from all walks of life. These dependencies are not limited to alcohol or drugs; people can become addicted to food, sex, or anything.
Today we will talk to the head of The Kusnacht Practice clinic, Dr. Lowell Monkhouse.
– Tell us please how you came up with the idea to establish this clinic.
– I had a friend who was dying of alcoholism, and I was looking for a way to save him. At a certain point I understood that there was no clinic that could offer an efficient way of dealing with addiction treatment and so I decided to create it.
In 2002, I went to the USA to the world’s first alcoholism treatment center, took a postgraduate course and then did my practical training. Then I studied this problem while working in a large psychiatric clinic in London. I came to the conclusion that most patients that undergo treatment return to their bad habits because their nervous system remains unbalanced; they still feel dejected and irritable. If the true reasons behind the disorder are not eliminated, the person quickly goes back to finding consolation in alcohol (or something else). Addiction is caused by internal anxiety, depression or insomnia, something that gnaws you from within. First people get used to drinking a glass of wine at dinner to relax, and then they want more and more…
But alcohol is a poison, a drug. It is the only drug that penetrates each cell of the body, so it is much more destructive than heroin for example. People get their kicks from this poison, as the brain produces substances to protect itself from its harmful influence, and they cause a sense of euphoria. This is in many ways a psychological disease, or even a mental one.
However, what the person will become addicted to – alcohol, heroin, cocaine, sex or food- is a secondary question; the main thing is what pushes them to do so. I have to find the reasons behind it and then eliminate them, and teach the person how to live with their altered brain, as their brain will never be the same again. This is like pickled cucumbers; they will never turn back into fresh ones. The same happens to an alcoholic’s brain, and it changes for ever.
– Will treatment not help?
– No. The brain has changed its way of functioning, and created a certain response to stress. So if people who were addicted to alcohol tell you that they have changed and can drink normally again, they are lying. Only those who are not addicted to it can control their alcohol consumption. The alcoholic’s brain becomes instantly hooked, and the person cannot stop.
– Do you mainly have patients with alcohol or drug problems here?
– It depends on their age. Young people usually have problems with both drugs and alcohol, and the older generation mainly has an issue with alcohol. Another serious problem of our time is drugs, which result in addiction. Some doctors don’t know that they prescribe medications with long-term consequences. For example, people may become addicted to benzodiazepines (a typical scenario ruins the person’s personal biorhythms). Medications sometimes bring about drug-like addiction as the brain does not understand whether these are the «legal» pills prescribed by the doctor or «illegal» ones; all of them work in the same way.
– How do you start working with the patient?
– They arrive at the hospital and we conduct complex testing for a week to determine their neuronal chemistry, seeing what processes are going on in their brain and understanding what has been damaged. Then we draw up a treatment plan. We evaluate their nutrition and way of life, and make a psychological analysis of their personality. In general, our patients undergo 4–5 kinds of tests and analyses, including a biochemical one. Then they move to a clinical residence, villas with the comforts they are used to. There are psychologists and consultants who live with them in the villa. Each patient has their own villa, and they never meet one another.
Treatment begins. Psychotherapists arrange cognitive therapy and other kinds of therapies. Different specialists find out what chemical processes are taking place in the patient’s body. As a result, we make a course of treatment for a particular person; develop a drug that harmonizes their chemical and physical processes. There are no artificial components in these medications, all of them are organic; this is our product. The computer determines the composition using samples of your hair, blood and other genetic data.
Then we use acupuncture, massage, fitness and yoga. We also use a Satori armchair to put the patient into a state of deep meditation, and we use different kinds of therapy. We also have a family program for the patient’s relatives. When somebody falls ill in the family, all attention is concentrated on them. We direct the relatives’ activity towards their own affairs, so that the patient can try and alleviate their problems themselves.
The final stage includes support. The patient goes home, along with our specialist who spends some time in their house. It is easy to refrain from drinking in the clinic, but it is far more difficult to maintain that back in your home environment. We help patients to overcome the desire to drink. But even if the patient does not touch alcohol or drugs any more, they will never be the same, they will be in a state of remission. Our goal is to make it life-long.
– Is there any difference between patients from different countries? What is your approach people with different mentalities?
– We have specialists that speak different languages, which considerably simplifies communication with patients. For example, now there is a Russian-speaking generalist in the clinic, who is a very good doctor. There are also doctors who treat patients from Arab countries.
– And what if the person has genetic predisposition, can they drink one glass of red wine in the evening? And is there any difference if they drink good quality drinks or not?
– There is absolutely no difference in what wine you drink, a good or bad one, and the amount of alcohol consumed is not the most important thing, either. It is essential to know whether there is addiction or not. If there are alcoholics in the family, you have to be very careful, of course.
There are several test questions which make it possible to determine whether you are an alcoholic or not; why you drink, whether you are planning to drink or this is a spontaneous desire, or what happens after you drink. Can you stop after the first glass? It’s one thing if you want a drink and decide to have one, and another thing altogether if you drink a glass and cannot stop. If this happens in your life, you are most likely to be an addict.
– Can you guarantee confidentiality?
– Yes, of course. We treat celebrities or members of royal families, for example. We also had a famous actress here who liked going to Starbucks at night; our driver took her there, and she read a magazine and drank coffee there. Nobody bothered her, even though she was recognized by everyone. In the USA or the UK she would have been surrounded by thousands of people! But no news of her stay here came out. Only once, two girls approached her in the street and politely asked her for an autograph.
– Is a special contract agreed for this kind of treatment?
– Yes, and we signed a contract with that actress which said that we would not use her name. Not a single name has appeared in the press throughout the entire history of the clinic. We have treated children of heads of states and even a king. By the way, a few weeks ago I asked his wife, the queen, how he was doing… We can work with anyone, and if they require confidentiality, we can turn them into an invisible man.
– How can biological blood purification help in the treatment of alcohol or drug addiction?
– We study carefully what exactly their body lacks, because our feelings, such as upsurge of energy, fatigue or depression, are a succession of biochemical reactions. We already know about neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine and antidepressants that influence us. Today more and more studies show that the depressed body lacks the В group vitamins, like В12, folic acid and others. Vitamin D3 is very important; it is related to bones and your metabolism. It is known to be responsible for the emotional state and help avoid cardiovascular diseases. It is hard to believe, but there are a lot of people with D3 deficiency, and they don’t even know about it; they are depressed and often resort to self-medication. In this case, their nutritional balance has to be changed, such as their food combination and frequency of meals.
When the body is used to receiving a regular dose of a substance and it suddenly stops, it responds with anxiety, depression, insomnia, shaking hands or even epilepsy. The person becomes more aggressive.
– Is your diet similar to a detox?
– This is something more. Detoxification is a way of eliminating toxins and poisons from the body and we are looking for a way to strengthen a person’s physical condition. We take samples of blood and saliva, study the veins, and the glands that regulate stress… We look at some genetic aspects. Afterwards, we use all these individual parameters to create the drug, carefully calculate the dose and gradually administer it. It is especially important to maintain a routine, as most vitamins were lost due to stress. It is good to regularly spend time in the open air, walk, run, swim, even doing something in the garden. All of these activities perfectly restore the rhythm of life. You have to do routine exercises in the morning, cardiovascular exercise at best, as our task is to restore a healthy hydrocortisone curve. Yoga and, in particular, meditation, are a good influence. By the way, studies have shown that meditation is just as (or even more) efficient as antidepressants in treating depression. Getting a good night’s sleep is very important, so you have to go to bed at a certain time. We have our own ways of helping to regulate sleep.
– Is there any similarity between alcohol or drug addiction and loving sweet foods?
– You have to be careful with sweets. Sugar creates thirst, which may lead to nervousness and a bad mood, so we restrict patients’ sugar consumption here.
– But now there is so much information about good food and vitamins, people can afford anything…
– Yes. But the problem is that current medications are standard vitamin complexes, while we offer a deeper analysis and try to understanding what the body is lacking in each particular case.
He is the founder of The Kusnacht Practice clinic and a certified international class specialist in addictions treatment. He was trained in and then practiced as a consultant for drug addiction issues at the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies, Center City, Minnesota, USA. He was a consulting doctor at inpatient and outpatient clinics, including at Priory Fam Place, Charter Day Care and Promises, and had his own private practice.