Ethical Drug Rehab: What to Look for (and What to Avoid) in an Addiction Treatment Center

Ethical Drug Rehab

ethical drug rehab

If you or your loved one are struggling with addiction, you’re no stranger to how completely unmanageable it can make your life feel. Sooner or later, most of us who struggle with addiction reach a breaking point – a point at which we realize that the rationalizations, attempts at moderation and failed promises aren’t working, and it’s time to get professional help.

How to Choose

But once you make the all-important decision to seek addiction treatment, another weighty one presents itself: Which center to choose? With most of the US rehab industry being private and underregulated, and virtually no objective information easily available online (most third-party referral sites are in fact managed and paid for by rehabs themselves), learning what to look for in a center is crucial to your treatment success. Here’s what you should look for – and watch out for – when choosing a rehab.

Relapse for Profit: Some Rehabs’ Goal is Not Your Treatment Success

Unfortunately, some rehabs are motivated not by their passion for the healing power of recovery, but strictly by financial gain. For some, the pull of shockingly large profits from filing fraudulent insurance claims and cycling clients in and out of treatment is all too strong. That’s why we see so much underqualified leadership at rehabs’ helms, and why so many make false promises that aren’t backed by evidence of positive outcomes.

These concerns are especially pressing in California and Florida. Southern California, where Orange County alone is home to 1,117 rehabs, is now unaffectionately referred to as the “Rehab Riviera.” An exposé on unethical rehab centers by the Orange County Register revealed outrageous information about their practices: lax requirements for starting a rehab; a shortage of inspectors in the state; a mountain of complaints and a dearth of reliable public information. Client deaths in rehabs were averaging a tragic two per week.

Unethical vs Ethical Rehabs

The news coming out of Florida hasn’t been any better. Known as the “Rehab Capital of America,” Palm Beach County is home to countless disreputable rehabs who are regularly exposed for practices like offering subpar counseling, conducting exorbitant and unnecessary testing and condoning or even encouraging drug use onsite.

Surprisingly, this current state of unethical rehab practices has flourished in an increasingly regulated and bureaucratized system of complex regulations and competing control mechanisms including state, federal and local regulators, professional bodies, accreditation businesses, medical systems and the insurance industry. And non-profit versus for profit has no bearing on ethical practice. Accreditation, licensing or non-profit status have no bearing on ethics. Sometimes, the more complex and bureaucratic a system is, the more prone it is to mismanagment or abuse.

Sober Homes

Sober homes, which are often unlicensed and informally run, tend to be the least regulated rehab venues. One former addict, Mike Verlie, says of his experience in the sober living circuit:

(Sober homes) are mainly privately owned and not regulated at all. Some may claim to follow nonprofit guidelines, but in reality, it’s mostly just a single guy or a couple of people who own houses and call them sober houses.

What is “Patient Brokering?”

Perhaps most disturbing of all is a practice called “patient brokering.” Because of the huge profits that each potential patient represents, some rehabs pay out huge percentages of their treatment fees to people who refer them into treatment – and those unscrupulous referrers use troubling tactics to do so. These rehabs may recruit former addicts to pose as recovery peers and convince someone to come to a new rehab, essentially using the referred client as a pawn for financial brokerage or large-scale insurance scam.

Chronic Relapses

Meanwhile, people genuinely struggling with addiction are continually relapsing and re-enrolling in treatment, often with centers in totally different parts of the country. Not only does this increase the cost of addiction treatment for everyone, it also threatens clients’ sensitive recovery process and puts them at risk for overdose. The practice is so common in the Sunshine State that it’s been dubbed “the Florida Shuffle.”

Alex’s Story

It’s a story Ohioan Rich Strickling knows all too well. His son Alex, a bright young 22-year-old struggling with heroin addiction, was persuaded by one such patient broker to enter the program at UMNPA Treatment in Anaheim. In the final steps of his admittance process, Alex was told he’d have to fail a urine test in order to be accepted. He died of a heroin overdose in his hotel room just a few days later.

Alex’s story isn’t the first. Last year, NPR exposed a similar set of South Florida rehabs using “body brokers” to recruit clients with good health insurance coverage. The problem is so pervasive that Palm Beach County established a Sober Home Task Force, which arrested six sober home operators in 2017 alone.

And this type of unethical practice is not limited to Florida. For example, in California, there are 84 substance abuse treatment centers in violation that are currently under suspension, on notice, or have had their licenses revoked.

How to Find an Ethical Drug Rehab Addiction Treatment Center

So how can you identify a reputable rehab? According to independent, academically-based news source The Conversation, here are some factors that are recognized as improving treatment outcomes and making recovery longer-lasting:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based therapies
  • Individualized counseling
  • Personalized treatment planning
  • Flexibility – Overly disciplinarian programs are shown to have an adverse effect
  • Program length – While most residential programs start at a minimum of 28 days, if possible, three months is considered a more effective treatment standard
  • Active participation and completion of the program

Local vs Abroad

Whether a rehab is based abroad or in your home country doesn’t have any bearing on the quality of its programming. The same set of concerns apply when evaluating your treatment options.

The focus here is on finding an ethical drug rehab that is going to treat you as an individual and help you recover with the utmost of professionalism, dignity and respect. Take a look at the leadership and decision makers and how close they are to day to day operations and actual therapy. How layered or bureaucratic is the facility? Where is their focus?

Serenity Vista: Our Purpose is to Help You Heal

At Serenity Vista, we understand how isolating it can feel to be trapped inside the confines of your addiction. That’s why we accept you as one of our family as soon as you arrive. In our small, intimate setting (we only accept up to six guests at a time), we’ll eat our meals together, get to know each other, and we’ll support you every step of the way.

Independent & Private

Serenity Vista is independent and privately owned and operated. The leadership are hands-on, in close, day to day connection with the guests. The leadership know addiction personally and professionally, and are dedicated to helping each guest.

Serenity Vista Pacific Tropical Island Recreation Outing

Our tropical oasis in Panama is healing in and of itself. It’s abundant nature reminds you of the beauty of life and relative smallness of your problems. You’ll receive a highly individualized, comprehensive program led by caring professionals including two, 2-hour therapy sessions daily.

Individual, Compassionate Attention

You will develop new life-living skills. With the intensive, individual guidance of caring professionals, you will experience personal transformation as you address your addiction at its deepest level. Our guests leave with a newfound sense of optimism and connection with life that enables them to be their absolute best selves. Sober, healthy, happy, and free.

To learn more about our holistic and highly individualized program, contact us, complete our online inquiry form, or simply make your inquiry below:

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