'It hurts like crazy - but it's given me back my life': Recovering heroin addict Natasha, 22, from Novosibirsk, in the middle of a caning session administered by Dr German Pilipenko at his Siberian drug clinic
'Most appalling scandal': Recovering alcoholic Yuri, 41, takes a beating from Professor Chukhrova. He said his girlfriend suspected him of having an affair or visiting the local dominatrix when he began the treatment
Siberian psychologists claim they are helping drug, drink or sex addicts kick their habits by literally beating it out of them with corporal punishment.
The painful treatment, which involves lashing addicts on the buttocks, could help cure drug-users such as Pete Doherty or anyone who has failed with other methods, its practitioners claim.
However, 'the reaction of most people is predictable: to snigger, scoff or make jokes loaded with sexual innuendo,' said The Siberian Times, which watched two patients undergo the 'therapy'.
One, Natasha, 22, a recovering heroin addict from Novosibirsk, insisted: 'I am the proof that this controversial treatment works, and I recommend it to anyone suffering from an addiction or depression.
'It hurts like crazy - but it's given me back my life. Without it I seriously believe I would now be dead.'
Dr German Pilipenko and fellow practitioner Professor Marina Chukhrova insist their novel treatment is grounded in sound scientific principles.
'We cane the patients on the buttocks with a clear and definite medical purpose - it is not some warped sado-masochistic activity,' said Professor Chukhrova.
The pair claim addicts suffer from a lack of endorphins - often known as 'happiness hormones'.
The acute pain of the corporal punishment they dish out stimulates the brain to release endorphins into the body 'making patients feel happier in their own skins'.
'The caning counteracts a lack of enthusiasm for life which is often behind addictions, suicidal tendencies and psychosomatic disorders,' said Dr Pilipenko.
Natasha said she got into drugs through a boyfriend who died from his habit.
'There were so many deaths around me. I nearly died too - I just couldn't see a way out. It was then that my mother heard about this new method of treatment. I agreed to try it.'
She is given psychological counselling before each session of 60 strokes with a willow cane. Each session costs around £60.
'I'm not a masochist,' she said. 'My parents never beat me or even slapped me, so this was my first real physical pain and it was truly shocking. If people think there's anything sexual about it, then it's nonsense.
'With each lash I scream and grip tight to the end of the surgical table. It's a stinging pain, real agony, and my whole body jolts. Often I cry, and the doctor sometimes asks what I am feeling, and if I am ok.
'My body gets really hot and my palm starts sweating. It's really unpleasant - but after each session, I can see that it works. In fact, it's the only thing that has worked for me.
'As he strikes me, the doctor explains the danger of the drugs. But this treatment is not about punishing me for taking heroin.
'It works because of the effect on my body - the release of these endorphins - that is letting me get rid of the addiction.
'The pain helps me understand the dangers I have caused to myself, how I was simply killing myself.'
She stressed: 'I know many of my friends think I am mad to trust these doctors. But I want to live. For the first time since I because an addict five years ago, I feel I have a chance.
'I just want to be like all those thousands of girls who have a normal life - finding a man, getting married, having kids, going through the problems of life together.
'I want that kind of normal life - and finally I can feel I am coming back to it.'
Several months into her treatment, she got a new job and - against expectations - was holding it down, working as a dispatcher in a local taxi company.
Another patient, Yuri, 41, has a stressful job which led him to a serious vodka habit.
Alcoholics are given 30 not 60 lashes.
'The first strike was sickening. I screamed, and swore like a drunk sailor,' he said. 'Somehow I got through all 30 lashes. The next day I got up with a stinging backside but no desire at all to touch the vodka in the fridge.
'The bottle has stayed there now for a year.'
But the treatment caused 'the most appalling scandal' with his girlfriend.
'She suspected me of all sorts of weird things, from a secret affair to visiting the local dominatrix. I told her the truth - and when I explained it all she said she was proud of me for taking such a risky step to cure myself.'
Professor Chukhrova said: 'The beating is really the end of the treatment. We do a lot of psychological counselling first, and also use detox.
'It is only after all the counselling, and heart and pain resistance checks, that we start with the beating.
'We use willow branches. They are flexible and can't be broken nor cause bleeding.
'The only area we beat is the buttocks.
'Experience shows that it's a very good reflexogenic zone which can be used to transform pain signals into positive activity for the human organism.'
If any patients get sexual pleasure from the beatings 'we stop immediately', she added.
'This is not what our treatment is about. If they're looking for that, there are plenty of other places to go'.
Mainstream doctors in Russia deride the treatment, saying exercise, acupuncture, massage therapy, eating chocolate and even sex are better at stimulating endorphin secretion, and demand academic proof of its track record.
'The pain works like an injection against stress,' said Dr Pilipenko, who admits 'we get a lot of scepticism from colleagues, but so do all pioneers'.
The treatment 'acts like a warning so that the individual doesn't let offence, annoyance, anger, laziness, desolation or hopelessness get in his way of going towards the next achievement,' he said.
'A large number of psychosomatic illnesses can be sorted by this fast and dynamic method. We get a lot of patients annoyed with themselves and with the world, weak, apathetic, tearful, and tired.
'We help them to change the way they react to the stresses, and help them overcome any worrying situation in the future.'
He insisted: 'People fly to see me from different cities in Russia, and now from other countries too.
'Several patients from America are asking for appointments, so I see no issue over mentality or the country where the patients come from.
'Of course we would try it with Pete Doherty - we pay special attention to people like him, the artistes, so that their genius continues to enlighten other people's lives.'
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