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A Commodity in the Addiction Industry

You’ve seen him before.  The guy standing at the corner of the parking lot with ragged clothes, rustled hair, and scrungy skin.  He has two bags laid next to him that contain all of his possessions. A few feet away rests two empty Smirnoff bottles.  Radiating from his body is a smell so putrid you can hardly stand to be around it for more than a few moments.  This man doesn’t have a nickel to his name, but he is worth thousands of dollars as a commodity in the addiction industry.

As the opioid epidemic continues, the addiction industry has ignited into a flourishing marketplace where humans are transferred around like stocks on Wall Street.  The system, consisting of rehab centers, insurance companies, and drug testing companies, pushes struggling alcoholics and addicts along the assembly line, make a profit at each stop, then discard the goods when the money runs out.  What gets lost in this system?  A solution to help the person in need.

Let’s break down the common cycle seen in today’s addiction industry landscape.  If an alcoholic/addict is in need of help, an addiction treatment program will send an outreach staff member- or commonly known now as a body broker- to coerce the person into a treatment center.  The body broker will recommend a certain treatment center not based on the best interest of the client, but the treatment center that bids the highest.  Body brokers’ compensation relies on their ability to get people into treatment.  Certain treatment centers will offer more money than others.  The outreach professional, not all but some, will send their patient to the highest bidder.

Now the alcoholic/addict is in treatment.  The rehab center will charge their insurance company thousands of dollars for certain services such as drug testing, counseling, and other clinical services.  Often times, the patient is not made aware of any of these charges.  After awhile, the insurance loses interest and refuses to pay for the client’s services.  Then what happens?  The client is released from treatment to fend for themselves.

There’s a catch.  What if the alcoholic/addict doesn’t have insurance?  In this situation, we can see the true colors of many addiction treatment centers.

Let’s use Southern California as an example. Certain federal mandates grant easy access to insurance for recent arrivals to the state of California.  Over one thousand treatment centers rest in the Southern California region- all that accept state issued insurance.  Outreach professionals will convince struggling alcoholics and addicts to travel to California- even from the east coast- with promise of a “scholarship” to their treatment program.  Now, what exactly is this “scholarship”?  In reality, the treatment center is simply signing up the patient for insurance for cheap rates.  Now that the patient is insured, the treatment center can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills to the insurance company, and when the insurance refuses to pay, the resident is kicked to the curb.  So the scholarship is really the cheese in the mousetrap. This practice can be seen all over, and with the incredibly understaffed monitoring agencies in Southern California, many go unnoticed.

As we have stated before, we are not denouncing the entire addiction industry as a whole.  We are simply illuminating that not all programs are what they seem, and they do not all have the client’s best interest in mind.

If you or a loved one are struggling, we are more than happy to point you in the right direction.  Our Executive Director can offer assistance in navigating you the best options for treatment.

For more information, feel free to check out the full story here.