In a recent article, Maia Szalavitz, a journalist who has covered addiction for nearly three decades, highlighted the issue that drug rehabilitation centers in the United States are in desperate need of help – for every facility providing tested, ethical, and effective care, there are many more who fail to meet what should be the most basic of standards.
When managed and run properly, rehabilitation centers can give people in need of help a real chance to wrest control of their lives away from the all-consuming power of addiction. The former director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s treatment and recovery research Dr. Mark Willenbring offered a radical solution to the current issue:
“What we simply need is a nice bulldozer, so that we could level the entire industry and start from scratch… Another approach is that you could use dynamite.”
While Dr. Willenbring, the founder of St. Paul, Minnesota-based rehabilitation center Alltyr, may not be entirely serious with his explosive option, he’s right about the need for change at a fundamental level, and that includes altering the way we care for our patients once they enter a rehabilitation center.
Eliminate the Cost of 12-Step Programs…Or Eliminate Them Entirely
Treatment for addiction shouldn’t focus on giving up total control of your life and handing it over to a higher power, especially not when that exact same help can be found, free of charge, in church basements across the country. Not only is it an unnecessary waste of resources that could be better used in numerous other treatment areas, it goes against Tradition Eights of Alcoholics Anonymous, the very group that first introduced us to the 12-step program back in 1939. The Tradition begins and ends specifically stating that problems are bound to arise when money is introduced to their program:
“Alcoholics Anonymous will never have a professional class. We have gained some understanding of the ancient words “Freely ye have received, freely give.” We have discovered that at the point of professionalism, money and spirituality do not mix… Our Twelfth Step is never to be paid for, but those who labor in service for us are worthy of their hire.”
An estimated 80 percent of rehabilitation centers in the United States are geared around pushing their patients to accept and subscribe to 12-step programs – while these programs do provide valuable support to people working to stay clean after rehabilitation, forcing patients and insurance companies to pay for what should be completely free meetings is outrageous. Treatment should be focused on research and evidence and administered by professionals and not rely on self-help programs. That’s why people go to rehab – they need help from an outside source before they can truly regain control of their own lives.
Corruption and a Lack of Morality Only Makes This Problem Worse
The New York Times published a damning exposé revealing the practices of so-called “3/4 houses” throughout New York City last year that showed that the people who ran these homes had a financial incentive to push their members to repeatedly relapse and enroll in yet another rehabilitation program or face a life on the streets; the Huffington Post published an investigative report on the failures of numerous rehabilitation centers in Kentucky – rather than offer an effective and proven outpatient treatment option for recovering addicts, they pressured patients to subscribe to the 12-step program instead of securing medical help; LA Weekly published a revelatory piece on the owner of numerous rehabilitation clinics in Los Angeles after both the state and the FBI began investigating him for fraud, poor care, and pursuing sexual relationships with patients.
The list of atrocities is long, and the stories of the people who had to suffer are heartbreaking. These situations happen far too frequently, and something needs to be done in order to provide people suffering from addiction with the proper care and support they need with proven and effective methods. As terrible as some of these places may be, it doesn’t mean that we need to blow up the entire industry and start from scratch – we need to find the rehabilitation centers that do great work for their patients, and work to spread those practices across the country so that everyone in need can receive the quality care they deserve.
At Schick Shadel Hospital, we strive to maintain our place as one of those rehabilitation centers that provide the effective, evidence-based treatment that will help our patients break free from their addictions and reclaim their lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, give us a call at (800) 272-8464 to speak with one of our professionals about the steps you need to take, or send us a confidential message through our online form.