It’s no secret that drug rehab clinics have incredibly difficult jobs to do. Drug addiction treatment is a long, fraught road, and many people have to go through treatment multiple times for it to truly stick. While the clients experiencing drug addiction treatment have pretty obvious issues the center is trying to help them through, those drug rehab clinics are facing severe problems of their own.
Here, we’ve endeavored to break down the biggest issues plaguing American drug rehab clinics today. That’s obviously no small task, and we may have missed out on some along the way. Even still, we think we’ve identified the core issues with the current addiction treatment system, and along the way, we’ve pointed out how you can avoid them or what could be done on a broader scale to help improve the system. Before we get started with all that, though, we want to give a big disclaimer: We’re talking about systemic, industry-wide issues here, not any individual facilities. None of the problems we’re about to point out is to say that you can’t find a good program or that you can’t get better. There are definitely still good options out there. If you need help, you can get the conversation started by reaching out to us here.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get into it. We’ve narrowed our focus to four of the biggest ways in which drug rehab clinics fall short: Ineffective treatment, rampant scams, insurance issues, and lack of regulation. Clearly, those are problems that individual clinics can’t solve on their own, and they don’t affect every facility. Nevertheless, here are the four biggest problems with drug rehab clinics and the drug addiction treatment industry in America.
1. Ineffective Treatment
We need to do some disclaimers here — no drug addiction treatment program is going to have a 100 percent success rate (and we’ll talk more about how drug rehab clinics define success and the problems with that system a little later), and just because one individual doesn’t have optimal results doesn’t mean a facility has ineffective treatment. In fact, it’s common for clients to need multiple treatments before something sticks.
What we mean with this point is that some drug rehab clinics will use treatment modes that aren’t evidence-backed. Certain kinds of drug addiction treatment are well-proven and have years of research backing them up. Others do not. There are plenty of drug rehab clinics out there that use methods that aren’t proven to work, and that’s not going to do you any favors.
To avoid this one, be sure to ask about the science backing up the methods the facility uses. You can do your own research into their treatment models, but make sure you’re consulting reputable sources. Look into the staff’s credentials, and make sure they have legitimate authority in the field.
2. Rampant Scams
It’s no secret that some drug rehab clinics can be predatory and harmful to the people they’re supposed to be helping. Scams like the “Florida Shuffle” have been widely reported on, and there have been definite steps to combat them. However, there’s still a long way to go before drug addiction treatment scams are fully weeded out.
That Florida Shuffle we mentioned is not actually unique to any one state — you see it all over. The basic idea is that bad-faith drug rehab clinics have financial incentives to keep their clients in treatment, so they don’t do much of anything to help them get better. As a result, clients get shuffled from facility to facility, never making much progress and greatly suffering. It’s a horrific cycle.
There are also plenty of treatment facilities that do not have the proper credentials, goals, or methods. For example, in some states you don’t need a license to operate a sober living home, so pretty much anybody could advertise one. If you want to learn more about how these scams operate and the tremendous harm they’ve caused over the years, there’s plenty of reporting on it, like we said. Here’s one article to get you started.
Now that you’re sufficiently frightened, let’s switch gears a little and take a brief detour to talk about how to avoid scams in the drug addiction treatment industry. There are several red flags you need to look out for when searching for a facility. Here are some things to avoid:
In this fast-paced modern age, there’s going to be pressure from all sides to get patients in and out of rehab as fast as possible. You probably don’t want to leave your life behind for an extended period, so you might be drawn toward programs that boast of a quick turnaround.
Don’t fall for it. Like most things worth doing, drug addiction treatment takes major time and effort. You should be looking for programs that will take as long as you need to get healthy, not get-sober-quick schemes.
This includes looking for a program with options for care after you’ve completed an initial course of treatment. Most people do not see lasting effects from just spending a month in drug rehab clinics and then going on with their life. The best facilities will have aftercare options, like legitimate sober housing and outpatient treatment. If there’s no talk of what happens after your initial inpatient stay, ask, and if they don’t have a good answer for you, look elsewhere.
Nobody can guarantee you successful drug addiction treatment. If the drug rehab clinics you’re considering are making all kinds of grandiose claims about what their methods will do for you, that’s a big clue that you should be looking elsewhere.
This is a good spot to talk more about success rates, which we mentioned earlier. Basically, you need to know how different drug rehab clinics define and measure success. There are all kinds of different metrics they could be using — the percent of clients who complete the program and percent of clients who stay sober for a designated amount of time are some common ones. Also, what’s considered a good success rate is going to vary greatly depending on what metric they’re using and what kinds of clients they treat. So, if a center is touting some amazing success rate and promising the same for you, it might pay to be a little suspicious. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to ask some questions about how they determined that statistic.
This is all to say that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t believe any guarantees that a program is going to solve all your problems, and be skeptical of success statistics that seem overblown.
You want a drug addiction treatment plan as unique as you are. If one of the drug rehab clinics you’re considering doesn’t emphasize that point and instead wants to shoehorn everyone into a single sort of program, that’s a massive red flag. Your treatment plan should be individualized to your needs, which includes the length of the program.
This relates back to our previous point about treatment programs that are too short — a month might be plenty of time for some people, but others need to be in residential treatment for longer. True drug addiction treatment professionals are going to be able to identify how best to help you, whatever form that takes.
This means they’re going to want to know a lot about you before you ever get started on your program. If the intake process is super quick and you don’t have any interviews or any discussions about an individualized treatment plan, that’s a big red flag.
3. Insurance Issues
In many ways, this problem goes hand-in-hand with the numerous scams out there. Many of them are designed to capitalize on flaws in our insurance system.
For instance, lots of scamming drug rehab clinics will overbill their clients’ insurance companies, charging for unnecessary and exaggerated services and treatments. Some have also committed insurance fraud, where they sign patients up for top-tier insurance plans without their knowledge or consent under phony addresses. That way, the drug rehab clinics receive more money than they would from other, less comprehensive plans. This sort of a scheme is obviously also a scam, so we could have put it under that header, too, but we think it belongs better down here.
There are also less dramatic but just as damaging insurance issues with drug addiction treatment. Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans are required to cover addiction treatment in some capacity. However, they might not cover the full cost, or they might not cover your preferred drug rehab clinics. And of course, if you don’t have health insurance at all, you’re going to be on the hook to pay for the cost of your drug addiction treatment all on your own. All of these factors make treatment very expensive for some people, which can limit them from getting the help they really need.
The other aspect of insurance issues here is that providers often do not monitor the quality of the care they cover the way they do in other fields. This lack of oversight segues nicely into our next point…
4. Lack of Regulation
This is a big one. Fixing this issue would likely solve all of the other ones we’ve listed, or at least drastically improve them. In many states, drug addiction treatment is vastly underregulated. There’s not enough oversight on effectiveness of treatment, and there are few protections in place to prevent those scams we talked about from happening. They’ve been allowed to run rampant in some communities for a long time, and when they get flushed out of one place, many scammers will simply move to a new location, ready to prey on other people.
We should note that since the Florida Shuffle became widely known, there have been some changes for the better, and many drug addiction treatment scammers have faced criminal charges. However, there’s still a long way to go before drug rehab clinics are properly regulated.
We’re mostly talking about government regulation here, but as we previously discussed, insurance providers could step in with more oversight, as well. Insurers often can’t determine what treatment is appropriate, or which programs are better and more effective than others. Changes in the insurance system to incentivize high-quality drug addiction treatment would completely change the game.
A Word of Reassurance
We’ve put a lot of ugly aspects of our current drug addiction treatment industry on display here, but we don’t want you to get the wrong idea about drug rehab clinics in general. These are the issues the industry faces, and they’re real, but there are also plenty of reputable and effective rehabs out there. It’s absolutely possible to get the help you need. You just need to be willing and able to do some digging to find a treatment option that’s going to work for you. Now that you know what to watch out for, there’s an even better chance you’ll get into the right program.
Don’t let all these issues stop you from seeking treatment for yourself or for a loved one. Just know that you need to do your due diligence when selecting a program. Watch out for scams, and don’t get lured in by practices that sound good but don’t actually work. Even though there are plenty of programs out there that are devoid of scientific evidence, there are also lots that use evidence-based approaches — seek those out. Do plenty of research and ask plenty of questions so you know what you’re getting into. While there’s nothing you can really do to make the government regulate the industry more effectively, you can definitely watch out for scams on your own.
If you need a place to get started, we’d be more than happy to speak with you about whether one of the drug addiction treatment programs here at Harris House would be a good fit for you. You can contact us here to start that conversation.