Luxury Mexican drug rehab clinic lures U.S. addicts

Tue Feb 9, 2010 11:27am EST
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By Robin Emmott

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) - A Mexican entrepreneur is luring U.S. drug addicts to plush rehabilitation centers south of the border, even as shoddier Mexican clinics earn a reputation for attracting cartel shootouts.

Charging a third of the price of upscale clinics in the United States, a luxury rehab center aimed at foreigners opened recently at a posh hotel in the city of Monterrey about 100 miles from Texas.

Its month-long recovery packages come with English-speaking doctors and extras like massages, body masks and Botox shots.

Americans have long crossed the border for cheap medicine and are now choosing Mexico for dentistry and eye and heart surgery instead of far-flung destinations in Asia.

Gilberto Salazar, a former alcoholic, is marketing his spa-like centers under the brand "Rehab in Mexico" and is even using Mexico's official tourism logo on his website and in leaflets, with the government's permission.

"If you can come to Mexico for heart surgery, why not rehab? We pick people up from the airport, they get their own hotel room, they get top doctors," said Salazar, as a row of doctors answered calls from prospective U.S. patients.

Using the abstinence-based therapy popular in famous clinics like California's Betty Ford Center, Salazar's Monterrey center has treated Americans and wealthy Mexicans since opening in November. It charges $9,750 for a 28-day period, compared to around $30,000 in top U.S. centers.

Carla, a painkiller addict from San Antonio, Texas, came down after picking up a flyer at a travel agency. Pale, badly depressed and barely able to speak, she checked in with more than a hundred morphine capsules in her luggage, doctors said.   Continued...