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Who can you really trust these days? Addiction treatment is rapidly becoming the next billion-dollar business and the general public is not only totally unaware, but also completely unable to differentiate between good and bad services.

Imagine this: you have been fighting with your loved one for months (or maybe even years). They steal from you, manipulate your family, call you names and treat you as if you are the problem. As the addiction grows worse, the fighting increases, problems escalate and the emotional turmoil ravages through and through. Finally, the one suffering with the addiction reaches out and says they want help. The family quickly does a quick Google search for “addiction treatment.” Mom clicks on the first site that pops up and ships her loved one off for help. A few days go by and the calls start… ”this place is horrible,” “I don’t even know who my counselor is,” and the dreaded statement, “I want to come home.”

Deni Carise, Phd., has served as an important national voice in substance use disorder for over 20 years. She recently wrote a blog for the Huffington Post titled “Some Addiction Treatment Practices are Making Me Sick.” In this article Deni talks about the “unscrupulous people trying to make a profit off of our nation’s current drug epidemic with unethical and shocking practices like patient brokering, identity theft, kickbacks and insurance fraud.”

What she failed to mention is the rise in other tactics that are plaguing our industry: buying billboards that mimic other providers (so you call a phone number that you think is linked to a completely different facility), marketers that have no credentials, education or clinical training selling only one program but disguising themselves as “treatment specialists,” admissions teams willing to say and do anything to get the individual in that specific center. What about the detoxes and treatment centers popping up that have incredible food, TVs in bedrooms and don’t make the clients go to group? As a clinician with over a decade of experience in this field, my personal belief is that there is nothing wrong with good food or the comfort of watching your favorite TV show during free time. What I do have a problem with is when this is supposed to be a treatment program, not a “do whatever you feel like at the expense of the insurance company and your family” program. The major players use food, TV and other amenities not as a clinical service, but as a way of decreasing AMA* rates.

She also mentions that “Some programs will offer free rent and other amenities, then bill your insurance excessively for unnecessary drug testing and other services to make up the cost.” These specific programs are usually licensed as Partial Hospitalization Programs and Intensive Outpatient Programs selling them as a “residential like” experience. Did you know that we have at least 3 addiction treatment programs in the state of New Jersey doing this right now? Would you be able to tell the different between the high quality Partial Hospitalization Programs and the ones trying to make a quick buck solely by looking at their websites?

Some of these “addiction treatment” programs allow people back after relapse 3+ times. I understand needing detox but allowing someone to come back into a treatment program more than twice is plain insanity. Maybe they would have a greater chance of success if they were referred to another program? Maybe someone should sit with the family and explain what addiction is, and what it is not. Maybe that person who keeps using needs to start getting honest with themselves about what they are unwilling to do in order to make recovery happen. Over the past decade, I’ve seen tons of young men and women completely terrified of growing up. So what’s their solution? They use for a few days and get back into the treatment cycle. I see people in my local area who have been in a treatment center more times this year than in the real world. Part of me is convinced that the system is set up to fail them. They go from full structure to full freedom overnight and they quickly implode.

All of this is problematic because some professionals prey on the weakness of others. The term “clinical appropriateness” is thrown around because it sounds good, but folks can’t actually define what the phrase means (nor do they have a clue). A person does not suddenly become an “addiction specialist” because they have a couple years sober and dad gave them money to open up a treatment center. It’s also a problem because we know that the longer someone is engaged in treatment or recovery services, the better the outcome for long-term success (click to see more). If families cannot find cost effective long-term solutions that are credible and honest, they will just be set up for failure.

Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous was one of the first people investigating stock companies to determine if they were in fact doing what they claim to do. We utilize all types of services that help us determine the credibility of others but often turn a blind eye when it comes to addiction treatment. Standards need to be implemented and as professionals, we need to push negative players aside. Surfside Recovery Services Inc visited over 50 programs in the northeast last year. Let us help you and your family find services that work for you.

*AMA = Against Medical Advice. This term refers to people who leave treatment prior to completing the treatment plan and prescribed clinical services.