Following the release of his book, Patients, Patents and Bills, Weekly speaks to Siddick Maudarbocus, founder of Les Mariannes Wellness Sanctuary, about his grievance with big pharma, how he feels alternative medicine is the way forward and his take on addiction.
Patients, Patents and Bills is the title of your book. A rather provocative title, isn’t it?
The title is interesting because the link between patients and pills is big pharma that has the patents. So, with that in mind, the pharmaceutical companies want patients to take the pills, so they come up with the philosophy of a pill for every ill. Then you go to a doctor, you expect to get prescribed lots of pills because we have been brainwashed to believe that when you get lots of pills you think you have been looked after well, and when you don’t, you get disappointed. The interesting thing is that patents have a shelf life of 14 years, after which is no more money to be made as everyone can copy the formula. So patents start looking for the second and third generation of drugs and get people to buy those, so there is a lot of dishonest manipulation of public opinion. Unfortunately, a lot of scientists and doctors say that taking these pills will cure you of ailments. What I am saying in the book is how wellness can save your life. How, instead of going for pills, we can do some simple adjustments in lifestyle to live longer and healthier.
Everyone knows that prevention is better than cure, so what’s new?
I look at a lot of scientific evidence from Ayurveda, acupuncture and other practices and ask why not go towards a plant-based regime; a plant-based nutritional approach is healthier. I show what is behind big pharma, how we are manipulated into thinking that pills will make us better, when nature has put all the vitamins into plants and fruits etc.
It’s all very well to tell us this, but one has to be realistic, how can one consume five fruits and vegetables a day?
This is where we have been brainwashed. No one does that. Nature has a certain intelligence that tells us to eat the fruit and vegetables around us. It makes no sense for an Eskimo to eat a kiwi from New Zealand for instance. Nature has provided us will all sorts of things, and nature knows that in this season, the body needs this kind of fruit. And so the secret is getting in harmony with nature, and what nature is telling us and making the most of it. A lot of people go jogging to keep fit, but not a lot of people have the body structure designed for jogging, only a few people have bodies designed for jogging.
What are the others designed for?
They have been designed for other things. We evolved from hunter-gatherers and the next step in our evolution was farming and this farming is a lot of activity, cutting grass, running after the cow and sheep. So that meant burning a lot of energy, so you get very hungry. Nowadays, you push a trolley in the supermarket and have very refined food, so you can see how diseases come in. We have to adapt our food to our lifestyle.
But in the same breath, you are saying that not everyone is designed to run 15 kms a day. So, what do the others do?
They find other ways of keeping active. A housewife, for example, is working a lot, keeping the plants, hoovering, cleaning, washing dishes etc. This is a lot of exercise. The mind and body are coordinated. On the other hand, you see a chap on the treadmill watching the news at the same time. The mind and body are disconnected. So we have to follow what nature has prescribed for us. Nature knows what the seasons are, what foods should be available and what our bodily needs are. Ayurveda says that there are three body types and each of them is supposed to eat differently; in Chinese medicine, you have five elements. In western medicine, on the other hand, it’s a one size fits all. It does not say that protein should come from this source or carbohydrates from the other.
Definitely! It’s in our genetics. It’s in the way generations before us have been eating. For instance, you will find that many Indians and Chinese are lactose intolerant. That’s because, in China, once a baby is weaned, there is little milk in the diet. In the States, they drink milkshakes all day. So, theoretically, they should have the best calcium intake and bone structure, but they have the worst bone structure in the world, with problems of the skeleton. The body has an intelligence but we are brainwashed into thinking multivitamins. If the body does not need them, it will reject them, and sometimes it can even be poison, with too much cobalt, chromium or copper etc. We have to eat thing exposed to the sun, because everything is based on photoenergy which is powered by the sun, and everything is grounded upon that.
But without drugs, how do you deal with patients suffering from addiction who come to Les Mariannes Rehabilitation clinic for relief?
When we treat them as human beings, they can withstand the pain. Behind addiction there is always pain and suffering. Somebody in pain will always seek his own medication and that could be coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis and from there it goes to various possibilities. We have to also look at the pain behind the addiction.
You mentioned coffee, cannabis and hard drugs, do you see a progression between them, or do you think they are just as possible ways of dealing with one’s pain? Do you place coffee in the same category?
These are possible ways. When we are stressed, we can watch a film or go and talk to friends. These are healthy ways of dealing with stress. But sometimes we can go for a cigarette to destress, so we build up these habits, and these turn into addiction. You can be addicted to anything. You become a coffee junkie or even a food junkie.
A lot of research seems to suggest that coffee can in fact be good for you.
Everything can be good for you in moderation. But if you come to depend on that, then it becomes an addiction. A drug addict feels complete only with the drug.
Is there a natural progression from one drug to another?
It depends on people. I know quite a few people who smoke one cigarette a day without ever touching a second one. There are some people who smoke only socially and others only when they want to. They have the control. Most people don’t though. With our stressful way of life, we are working 24 hours a day without any time to recharge. And so we go for self-medication. It can be cannabis or something else.
But cannabis in itself, is it as harmful as is being suggested?
Maybe not in small amounts but, in my profession, I see people who have gone to extremes and not been able to keep control.
You must have followed the debate on methadone, and how we switched to suboxone etc. What is your view on that?
I think methadone is a good legal substitute. But methadone is a management programme: You start with 20ml, and then you downgrade to 10 and then to five. This programme is accompanied by counselling, cognitive therapy etc. But when you distribute the same dose to patients every day for years, then there is no point. Unfortunately, that’s the way it’s being done now; it’s a distribution programme, not a management programme.
Isn’t it better to have the drug users off the streets through methadone than have them commit crime to survive?
Yes, a lot of addicts spend most of their time looking for their next dose. With the methadone distribution, you sort this problem out. This is a good step, but once they have been stabilised, they should be treated not as consumers of methadone but as patients.
So when Anil Gayan came up with this brilliant plan to change methadone, what was your reaction?
In fact, I think the direction would be towards suboxone, but we will have to gently bring the doses of methadone down and not cut it suddenly and put the programme in turmoil. It’s not just a biological turmoil, but a social turmoil. I am in favour of the naltrexone approach. You have implants in your body that stay for three months and block the receptors in the brain that want the drug.
Where do you put the implant?
You just cut a one-centimetre incision in the abdomen, the tummy wall, put the implant and then suture it and for three months it dissolves and blocks the brain receptors and for those three months, your desire for hard drugs is reduced dramatically. We can repeat this. It’s a little cut, not a surgery. It’s used in many places in the world. Since the receptors are blocked, someone on naltrexone won’t get high if he takes cocaine or heroin, so there is no point. But all these things must be done with counselling because, at the end of the day, addiction is about pain and running away from pain.
What is the drug situation here according to you?
It’s getting worse and worse because we have got very cheap substitutes in the form of synthetic drugs and young people who like to experiment sometimes end up with very wrong mixtures that are just being precooked or cooked locally and this is what scares me. And while some young people are experimenting with synthetic drugs, they get caught by the police and they go to court and go to jail and then mix with hardcore criminals. In Dubai, for example, if you are caught the first time, you are given the option of treatment. This is the best way. Follow their treatment and see whether they do the same thing again.
There are a lot of people who are saying that the reason so many youngsters are using synthetic drugs is because it’s hard to have access to marijuana, so it should be legalised or decriminalised. What are your views on that?
(Laughs) Deep waters here. Marijuana has far fewer medical issues certainly. If there was a way to control the legal distribution of marijuana, that would be the ideal situation. From our experience, it causes less damage than the other drugs. I have seen a few students who took their HSC exams while on marijuana and they performed well. I have seen a few cases where they were looking for marijuana and got synthetic drugs instead and ended up in the hospital for three days.
So are you in favour of legalising it?
Not in the sense that you could buy it as easily as you could buy, say, beer. I don’t think we are ready for that.
What’s the difference between marijuana and alcohol?
Both have the potential of being addictive for certain types of personalities, but with alcohol it will take more time for a person to become an alcoholic. Marijuana can make one dysfunctional very quickly. You detach yourself from life and become a drifter, so to speak. It always comes back to the question: are we ready to take this level of personal responsibility? No, not in that liberal way, but in a controlled way.
What does that mean?
If there are only a few places where you could buy it, if you need an ID card and the amount you buy is monitored and controlled. You must not be distributing or doing business from that; it should be strictly for personal use.
Suppose you did not have the option of naltrexone, would you prefer to distribute marijuana instead of methadone?
That’s a difficult one. I would not distribute; I would treat. Now we are calling addiction a medical disease.
But people who go through these treatments don’t stay clean for very long, do they? When I last visited Les Mariannes, I saw some people who had come back because they could not stay away from drugs, or feared that they might not. How long can the treatment last?
Well, most of these people leave the pain untreated. Some might say that they feel okay and that they don’t need the treatment anymore. But the pain in all of us lasts a lifetime unless we manage to diffuse it; that’s why we need a good psychologist. Relapsing for an addict is easy because the brain has a memory. So, an alcoholic that’s quit for 20 years takes one drink and the memory comes back. This is addiction, and it is the master. We also work on with our patients on self-esteem. When that goes down, you feel that you must depend on something. This is what drives addicts. We have to look at a human being in totality.
When do you decide that the person is a social user, or an addict?
The difference is often known by the person himself and their entourage. You know this person is an addict when he depends on something. Addiction is weird you know, in the brain it is an entry point for the devil and I have seen people ruin their lives, businesses, marriage, family and health because of addiction.
What is the solution?
Talk to the human being and see where the pain is. If you treat the pain, you can put that person on a lifeline.