The facts are inarguable. Now more than ever people need professional addiction treatment. Of the millions who are addicted to a substance, only 10 percent get the help that they need, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Whether it’s alcohol, prescription, or illicit drugs, addiction has an inexorable hold on the lives of millions. The specter of the opioid crisis only exacerbates this issue.

Still, misconceptions linger about drug rehab centers. Many people think these spaces are analogous to prisons where entrants are stripped of their freedom and rights. In fact, a quality drug rehab center offers a safe, supervised, and controlled environment. These criteria are necessary to facilitate the best conditions for your recovery.

A rehab center that fails to offer safe and secure facilities endangers the well-being and recovery of its clients.

Reasons for Safe and Secure Rehab Spaces

When someone makes the brave decision to enroll in professional addiction treatment, they are typically at their most vulnerable. For the next one to three months, they are entrusting their well-being to parties responsible for their rehabilitation and recovery.

The substance that provoked the addiction has to be removed from their system. Clients with severe addictions, especially, require constant monitoring should any uncomfortable or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms arise. What’s more, it is crucial that their natural chemistry — both brain and body — is restored. All the while they have to engage in therapy and counseling where they are revealing the most tender, intimate, and painful pieces of themselves to strangers in all likelihood.

In such an environment, it is vital that they receive the supervision, care, and protection that best facilitate their recovery and well-being. That means, on a daily basis, facilities should provide around-the-clock security that prevents unauthorized access. Also, secure rehab spaces feature strict rules against activities that would otherwise compromise the recovery environment, like drug use and sexual activity.

A safe rehab center is one that is also clean and free from harmful obstructions that could endanger members of the community. It should also have certified teams of medical and clinical staff to attend to clients’ needs.

Another critical feature that all legitimate rehabilitation centers offer is an engaged staff that ensures clients follow recommended treatment plans. If someone seeks to leave a facility, appointed caretakers do everything in their power to ensure the person does not leave against medical advice.

Those are the hallmarks of a safe and secure drug rehab center. However, there are countless cases in which treatment centers fail to live up to these standards, endangering the very lives of those they vowed to serve.

When Drug Rehab Centers Are Not Safe

A multitude of stories exists about rehab centers that have exposed clients to unsafe conditions. The accounts range from bewildering to downright horrifying. For example, a 2010 case involving an upstate New York drug treatment facility revealed that when state inspectors visited, residents pleaded “Shut this place down” and “Get us out of here.”

Those inspectors later reported that illegal drug use, sexual activity, and a “diversion of medications — among other offenses — occurred on a campus where people were court-ordered for treatment.

drug rehab rep with family talk secure and safe

There are stories of clients who sought treatment out of state only to be preyed upon by shady drug treatment centers who sought to milk their health insurance policies, a practice known as “body brokering.”

As an August 2017 National Public Radio report explained, shady treatment center and sober home operators have engaged in body brokering in the South Florida region, leaving residents exposed to all manner of dangers:

“Some sober homes are good places. But others see a person who has an addiction as a payday.


Amid the nation’s growing opioid crisis, South Florida has become a mecca for drug treatment. And as more people arrive looking for help, there’s more opportunity for corruption and insurance fraud. There are millions to be made in billing patients for unnecessary treatment and tests…The first step for unscrupulous rehab centers: Recruiting clients who have good health insurance…”

The practice was so pervasive in Florida that the state’s Legislature passed a law against the practice of patient or body brokering.

If that wasn’t enough, there are instances where a visit to a rehabilitation facility produced the worst possible outcome.

That’s what happened when a 22-year-old Ohio woman checked into an Arizona drug detox center to end her dependence on opioids and other drugs. Once she entered the facility she showed signs of distress.

She had trouble breathing. Her pulse raced. She was wheezing, and her lungs sounded “crackly…, according to an October 2018 USA Today report. “One technician told investigators her complexion was jaundiced, and her lips were purple. Another said she went from pale to yellow to blue.”

She wasn’t sent to the hospital for emergency care. According to a report, the woman collapsed in her room and was found dead.

Signs That a Drug Rehab Center Is Bad

Certain indicators are common among all those so-called bad or unsafe drug rehab centers. According to this NBC News report, prospective clients should watch out for the following:

  • Generic websites or advertisements that don’t clearly identify the treatment programs they or advertisers represent.
  • Patient brokers who receive referral fees from treatment centers.
  • If that person offers to pay for travel and/or insurance coverage (or co-pays or deductibles).
  • Offers free rent for offsite homes where other addiction treatment patients live (called sober homes).
  • Expensive lab tests conducted daily or almost daily that cost thousands of dollars.
  • A treatment center that does not inquire about a patient’s in-depth history, particularly if they have received prior treatment from therapists of counselors.
  • Unsolicited referrals from out-of-state marketers or treatment hotlines.

The addiction treatment industry is fraught with bad actors, entities that participate in rampant corruption and exploitation. When asked about the biggest steps the treatment industry can take to improve, one expert told HuffPo this:

“What we simply need is a nice bulldozer, so that we could level the entire industry and start from scratch,” says Dr. Mark Willenbring, former director of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Another approach is that you could use dynamite.”

All Reputable Drug Rehab Centers Adhere to These Guidelines

Like any other business endeavor, there are reputable rehab entities that aim to offer comprehensive and specialized treatment to people in recovery. A reputable drug rehabilitation center adheres to the philosophies that undergird the Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, as outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  1. Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  2. No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
  3. Treatment needs to be readily available.
  4. Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
  5. Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical.
  6. Behavioral therapies—including individual, family, or group counseling—are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.
  7. Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
  8. An individual’s treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs.
  9. Many drug-addicted individuals also have other mental disorders.
  10. Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse.
  11. Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.
  12. Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur.
  13. Treatment programs should test patients for the presence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as provide targeted risk-reduction counseling, linking patients to treatment if necessary.

Rehab facilities that abide by these tenets will offer spaces that allow for the safe and secure participation of recovery treatment.


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