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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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):
Rehab facilities that abide by these tenets will offer spaces that allow for the safe and secure participation of recovery treatment.
Alltucker, K. (2018, October 03). Patient deaths bring scrutiny to drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers. from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/10/03/patients-drug-addiction-treatment-centers-opioid-epidemic-crisis/1358894002/
Haden, P. (2017, August 15). 'Body Brokers' Get Kickbacks To Lure People With Addictions To Bad Rehab. from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/08/15/542630442/body-brokers-get-kickbacks-to-lure-people-with-addictions-to-bad-rehab
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Principles of Effective Treatment. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
Reports, S. (2015, September 02). Celebrated drug rehab center spun out of control, Reuters finds. from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-rehab-phoenixhouse/
Seville, L. R., Rappleye, H., & Schecter, A. (2017, June 25). How to Find a Good Drug Treatment Program and Avoid the Bad Ones. from https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/megyn-kelly/how-find-good-drug-treatment-program-avoid-bad-ones-n776101