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Taking on Drug Rehab in the Sahara Desert

Some people swear by isolated “adventure therapy.”

The Rives du Rhône Center in Switzerland offers an unusual option for young people trying to fight addiction: a trip to Morocco’s Sahara Desert.

Participants live nomadically for days, following the tradition of Morocco’s Berber nomads. They carry gear by camel and wear turbans to protect against the harsh sun.

The extremes of the desert give the hikers a new perspective on their lives. “They take us through hard times so that life will be easy after,” one participant says.

In the middle of nowhere, it’s almost impossible not to focus on simple tasks like taking care of your body — and sanity. Just by spending time in the Sahara, participants have to confront their demons and work through their addiction.

The group takes part in rituals that are designed to rebalance body, heart, and mind. Besides trekking and taking care of their camp, they practice archery, singing, and martial arts.

Sharing circles are another regular part of the program. “Here in the desert, when we have a problem, we talk about it,” one hiker says.

By the end of their time in the desert, participants ideally have a better sense of themselves and their place in the world. M. Raphaël Salamin, one of the program’s educators, says, “We try to replace the ritual of drugs with something else, an inner force.”

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