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[ Opinion ]

The Business of Recovery: A Review

How often do most people think about drug and alcohol rehab centers? The truth is that unless you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about the quality or effectiveness of your average rehab.

If you do happen to be researching rehabs, you are likely desperate. Rehabs are generally not sought until things have escalated and people are scared. People who are seeking information on rehabs are often terrified parents, confused spouses, or addicts who are desperate and looking for hope.

And, according to The Business Of Recovery, hope is what rehabs sell. But does it deliver?

The film, produced by Greg Horvath and filmmaker Adam Finberg, takes a deeper look into the drug and alcohol treatment “business.” It’s easy to forget that most treatment centers are for-profit organizations who rely on addiction for their paychecks. The film poses a question: Just what are your tens of thousands of dollars getting you? Is it working? If not, why? If not, then why aren’t they doing something different?

The Business Of Recovery comes along at a time when the addiction treatment industry is thriving and has grown into a 35 billion dollar industry. Despite overwhelming evidence that there are flaws to the current treatment standards, there doesn’t seem to be any real system of checks and balances. How are these treatment centers being held accountable?

Challenging The Current System

Preparing to view this film, I had mixed feelings. It sounded as though the creators were trying to debunk the whole addiction treatment system, as well as 12 step programs. From a personal perspective, I found myself feeling a little defensive. Wait a minute I thought, rehabs don’t necessarily work for everyone, but they do work — for plenty of people. And meetings have saved countless lives as far as I’m concerned.

The Business Of Recovery doesn’t dispute that 12 step meetings can be helpful but does point out that there is no scientific evidence that it works, either. According to Greg Horvath, 12 step programs are great self-help groups for people who find them useful, however, they aren’t for everyone, and they shouldn’t be used in place of actual addiction treatment.

Just like a support group for people with cancer doesn’t cure cancer, so a support group for addiction doesn’t cure addiction. But, what does? Is there one set cure? As much as science has increased its knowledge of addiction, how it works and what seems to help, no one has come up with a sure-fire cure for addiction that works for all people. And, perhaps this is the problem. Yes, there’s some science out there, but it doesn’t know everything. It doesn’t know for sure what makes one person an addict, but not the next person. There is no one-size-fits-all cure that works for everyone. So treatment centers continue doing what they claim works for “some people” with no real accountability for the outcome.

Not only that but many treatment centers that charge tens of thousands of dollars provide little more than a heavy schedule of meetings and other 12 step related activities. But outside of treatment, 12 step meetings are free. Working the steps is free and people don’t pay for sponsors, so what are you paying for when you go to a treatment center?

Do Treatment Centers Prey On Desperate People?

The film also takes a poignant look at the helplessness that family members feel as they watch their loved ones sink deeper into the spiral of addiction. Parents spend countless sleepless nights praying they don’t receive that dreaded phone call, that their son or daughter has overdosed, or gotten in an accident.

In one example of a treatment center selling hope but not delivering, the film looks at parent Jeff Tanner and his experience with a treatment center. He was desperate to get his daughter help. He called a rehab and was assured they would take care of his daughter, Jenna. He was told she would receive psychological evaluations and round the clock care. You can imagine his surprise when he found her back at home after two days. She left the program; they didn’t notice. He spent $25,000 on the treatment center, even liquidating college accounts and maxing out credit cards. During her stay, she watched a film and was taken to one AA meeting. Remember, AA meetings are free. She had yet to receive a psychological examination. Mr. Tanners money was not refunded.

It’s this helplessness that motivates people to dig deep into their pockets and lay out exorbitant sums of money for treatment in the hopes that it will save their child’s life. Throughout the film, addicts relay their own experiences in treatment centers, often several. “It doesn’t work for me” states one young man.

Do The People Who Run Treatment Centers Know What They Are Doing?

The film introduces us to several addiction “experts” and follows families who are in the midst of crisis. The stories are often grim and heartbreaking, and the revelations made by those who are trusted to provide effective addiction treatment are eye-opening indeed.

The film shines a bright light on an area of healthcare that has been operating somewhat under the radar and is growing and thriving every single day, thanks to the rapidly rising numbers of people needing treatment.

Viewers who were unaware of the sheer scale of the addiction industry and the profits it generates may be shocked. Especially when they realize that most treatment centers are staffed by counselors and workers who have little or no education and limited, if any, credentials. Treatment center counselors and other lower staff members are often underpaid for the work that they do, while high-level executive and administrative staff often make six figures.

What Does Today’s Treatment Offer?

Although there are treatment centers that base their program around scientifically sound methodology, the majority do not, and according to the film, often don’t know what those methods are. Today’s treatment center isn’t much different than the treatment center of 25 years ago, despite the advances, research and findings made about addiction. The only things that seem to have changed are the ever-increasing cost. Treatment centers make a killing. Whether the funds are coming from the individual’s pocket, private insurance or government funding doesn’t matter: pockets are getting lined. Even so-called not-for-profit treatment centers have to admit that high-level employees are earning huge salaries.

People Are Dying And More Treatment Centers Are Opening Every Day

Now that the word seems to be out about how profitable the addiction business is, new treatment centers open every day. Some are luxury rehabs offering their clients a resort-level experience, others are government funded with no frills. Most are 12 step based and although they make some lofty claims about the success of their clients, there is no hard evidence to back them up. Meanwhile, deaths caused by drug and alcohol abuse continue to skyrocket and show no signs of slowing down.

By the end of the film, I found myself looking at the addiction treatment industry in a whole new light. I had honestly never questioned it before the film. I hold my own opinions on the effectiveness of certain types of treatment and 12 step programs, but there is no doubt in my mind that significant, sweeping changes in addiction treatment need to be made.

Who should watch this film? Any addict or loved one who is thinking about treatment, for starters. Those looking to get into the field of treatment should also watch the film, as well as medical professionals, people in the criminal justice system, and pretty much anyone who has been affected by or may come into contact with addiction, treatment or people who may need help.

The film’s producers hope to raise awareness and help consumers of addiction treatment make more educated decisions about treatment for themselves or those they love. Too often, people are getting “help” from treatment centers that are simply not qualified to treat their addiction. They are basically paying for meetings, yoga classes, and meals. They get out of treatment and more often than not, they are using again. Sometimes they end up in jail or back in treatment. Sometimes, they die. Such was the case with 23-year-old Michael Colasurdo, who died from an overdose just three months after being interviewed.

Hopefully, the film will have the impact that was intended. Who knows, maybe it will spur some real change in this 35 billion dollar industry. If nothing else, it will hopefully open eyes and encourage people to become better consumers of rehab services.

What I hope it doesn’t do is turn people off to 12 step programs. It’s understandable that programs came under the scrutiny of the film. After all, many rehabs who charge tens of thousands of dollars for treatment often use free meetings and call it treatment. But, the film doesn’t acknowledge the fact that over the years, 12 step programs have helped countless people turn their lives around through one addict helping another.

Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram