Is Addiction Treatment and Drug Rehab a Scam?

Is Addiction Treatment and Drug Rehab a Scam?


You know what the real scam is?

I’ll tell you what the real scam is:

The real scam in life is going through the whole thing without even knowing that there is a possibility of recovery. That is the big scam right there.

I have seen a few statistics that suggest that over half of all addicts and alcoholics never seek any help or treatment of any kind, period. They just live out their entire lives without ever even trying to fix their massive problem of addiction. They do not even acknowledge that a different way of life is possible! This is absurd, and tragic.

That is the real scam.

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For the rest of us, we know that recovery exists, and we also know that there are treatment centers and drug rehabs out there that will try to help people to recover from addiction.

We also know that such places cannot possibly operate for free. Even if the government were to subsidize all addiction treatment in the country, that treatment would still have a cost. If you go stay in a hospital for a week but end up paying nothing, was it really “free?” Of course not! That treatment still has a cost and we all know that health care is not getting any cheaper these days.

So therefore, we can establish a few facts in order to break down our understanding and our arguments:

1) Drug rehabs exist. Treatment exists.
2) That treatment costs money, regardless of who pays for it in the end (individuals, taxpayers, insurance companies).
3) Sometimes treatment works and sometimes it does not. This all depends on the individual.

So the real issue is with #3 there, that sometimes rehab works and other times it does not. Combine this with the fact that rehab can cost a serious amount of money, and you have yourself the potential for a “scam-like business.”

In essence, sometimes rehabs take a great deal of money from someone, then that person leaves rehab and immediately relapses, seemingly having learned nothing, having not benefited in any way, and certainly not having been “cured!”

Does this mean that rehab is a scam?

Unfortunately, recovery is pass/fail. This is what makes it appear to be a scam in some situations.

Relapse can invalidate a costly trip to rehab instantly

If you find the best treatment center in the world (a highly subjective and pretty useless distinction, by the way) and you pay them ten million dollars to go to their facility in the hopes of staying sober, what do you get for your ten million?

What you normally get at just about ANY rehab is:

* A safe environment without temptation (no drugs or booze available).
* Medical supervision.
* Therapy and counseling professionals to help guide you.
* Some sort of aftercare program and ongoing support, long term help.
* Groups of some sort, also possibly integration with 12 step programs or with religious communities.

This stuff is all pretty standard at any rehab. So one of the questions that you might ask yourself is:

“What does the 10 million dollar rehab place have that the other treatment centers lack?”

And the answer to that is…..NOTHING.

There is no magic cure out there, there is no way to pay an extra ten grand for rehab in order to insure success. There is no way to pay an extra ten million in order to insure success.

And this is why people label rehab a “scam” Because they cannot have guaranteed results.

Think about this carefully for a moment. There is never going to be a time when people do not refer to rehab and treatment as a “scam,” unless at some point we can cure addiction entirely. These people want a cure, they want a magic bullet, they want someone to wave a magic wand and make all the bad stuff involving addiction to just magically go away. And if that does not happen when they fork over their money, then it is all just a big scam to them.

They were promised a solution and the world did not deliver. Science and medicine have failed them. Rehab is a scam because it did not cure their spouse, child, parent, whatever.

Now, the question we need to ask ourselves is this:

“Even if rehab and drug treatment is not a perfect cure, and even if we acknowledge that it does cost money, does that mean that it is a total scam and that we should abandon it completely?”

The next question you need to ask yourself is:

“What is the alternative to addiction treatment? What is the alternative to rehab? What are the other solutions available to help with the problem? And….are any of those “scams” as well?”

Rehab may be a “scam” in some people’s opinion, but it is still the best solution that we have

Here is the reality of the situation:

Addiction treatment is not perfect, and it does not “cure” anyone. But, it is still the best solution that we have in most cases.

Sure there are few alternatives. You could just detox yourself (medically dangerous in many cases!) and then go to AA meetings for “free.” Anyone could do this and potentially not pay a single dime and just ride on other people’s donations to the AA meetings to keep them afloat.

Now the question is: “Can an addict or an alcoholic actually get clean and sober this way?”

Sure. It has been done with even less support than free AA meetings. But you have to wonder how low the success rate is going to drop as you have less and less help, less structure, less support, less medical supervision than if you were to actually go check into rehab. There are certainly risks to detoxing yourself, some of them very serious risks.

Remember that going to addiction treatment is typically a cumulative solution. You have access to many solutions at rehab. There are 12 step meetings. There is medical detox, possibly doctors. There are trained counselors and therapists, who will attempt to place you in some sort of follow up care. So it is more than just one solution when you check into rehab, you are getting access to several potential “layers of help.”

Why the desperate and suffering call treatment a scam

Our lives have not trained us well to deal with a pass/fail proposition like addiction recovery.

In fact we have been slowly trained over the course of our lives for the exact opposite of this. In many of our live’s endeavors, we have found that we can:

* Make a small effort and get a modest reward for that small effort.
* Depend on science, medicine, or technology to provide us with solutions if we are willing to pay for them.

Neither of these two things apply to addiction recovery, yet many people have an expectation that they should.

Recovery is pass/fail, and this is a huge obstacle to success. In order to experience “modest rewards” in recovery one would have to put forth 100 percent effort. If you make a 99 percent effort then you open the door to relapse and when it occurs you lose all progress. This is unique because most challenges in our lives do not work this way. In most of our growth efforts, we can make a modest effort and get a modest return on that effort. Not true in addiction recovery. You either push with 100 percent effort and stay clean, or you make less than a full 100 percent commitment and end up miserable. No in between.

The second problem is our expectation of progress, easy solutions, and our entitlement to the best that medicine has to offer. Modern science and technology has warped our expectations so that we demand a quick and convenient solution to anything and everything. At the very least, we expect that such a solution could be purchased for the right amount of cash. It may not be cheap but at least the solution should exist, right? Science, technology, and medicine should at least provide the possibility for an instant cure, even if it is outrageously expensive, right?

Wrong. Obviously this is not the case, and this is why many people feel that treatment is a scam. They are angry because modern medicine has failed them, and did not provide a simple enough solution for their tastes.

What’s really bad is when people have no idea that this might be the case–that addiction is not yet fully “cured” in our society. Working a drug and alcohol rehab for 5 years taught me that such people still exist, and that they have been totally blindsided by a friend or family member who is suddenly revealed to be struggling with addiction. It as if they are grabbing the nearest doctor and shaking them violently, saying “well can’t we just do something about this addiction? Can we not cure it, make it go away, treat it with pills or something?”

I do sympathize with such people and I feel terrible for them. And I have lost close friends to addiction myself, even though I happen to be in recovery now. There is no good answer for that hopeless feeling that you get when you have to stand by and watch someone self destruct. I wish there were a magic pill too, one that would make addiction all go away. But as of right now the best we can do is to funnel people into traditional and existing rehabs. They do not work 100 percent of the time, and they do cost a lot of money.

And the bottom line is that they are the best thing we’ve got going to help people. There are many different “layers” of help in treatment (counseling, group therapy, aftercare, 12 step meetings, etc.) and you can find most all of them accessible in most rehabs. We do the best we can with the information and resources that we have.

Trying to help those who would self destruct

Saying that treatment is a scam is like saying that a suicide call center is a scam because a caller once killed themselves after calling them.

Think carefully about that because it holds a lot of truth in it.

Ask yourself this:

“Who out there is trying the hardest to help struggling addicts and alcoholics?”

Really there are only 2 possible answers to that: 12 step groups, and treatment centers. That’s it. What other options are there really? Those are the big ones.

Now technically the cost of attending 12 step groups alone (without rehab) is significantly lower than attending an expensive treatment center. If you believe that this is the path to take then I would say: “Take it!” Go to AA, be clean and sober, and be happy with your life.

But there are a number of people for which this has failed. There are a number of people who are trapped in addiction that need more help than what AA can provide by itself. And so there can still be a real need for rehab in many cases.

There are some who might argue and say “you should not have wasted your money on treatment, and just gone to AA instead. It would have just worked just as well.” But this is not always true. In many cases a struggling addict or alcoholic needs the safe environment that treatment provides in order to break free from their addiction.

Part of the long journey may require seeds to be planted

Many people believe that if someone goes to rehab and then later relapses that this means that rehab is a scam and it never works. In fact what may be going on is that an addict or alcoholic may be working up to the point of surrender.

I know that this is possible because I went through this myself. I went to 2 treatment centers without having surrendered fully to my disease. In both cases I was really going to rehab because other people in my life wanted me to go. I was not going for myself or for my own sake, therefore the treatment did not work.

So the first two times that I attended treatment, I relapsed after leaving. Does this mean that they were both a total failure, and that I should not have gone at all? were these two trips a complete waste of time and money?

The answer is “no,” they were not a waste. Even though I relapsed the trip to rehab was still important. The idea is that they “planted a seed.”

This means that even though I was not ready to embrace recovery at the time, I was at least exposed to the concept, and saw that there were tools available and a path that could possibly work for me in the future. I met people in 12 step meetings who I could relate to, because they described a past that sounded very much like my present. They were addicts and alcoholics just like I was, and yet they had somehow found sobriety. At the time when I heard these stories, I believed that I was a hopeless case and that I was different, and that I was doomed to self medicate forever in order to be happy. I fooled myself into believing that I was unique, even though I heard people speak in recovery who seemed to have the same history of drug and alcohol abuse that I had.

So going through the process of my first two drug rehab trips was necessary for me to see what did not work. I had to fail a few times in order to learn what was really necessary in order to succeed. I had to fail in order to learn the true nature of surrender. What I did the first two trips to rehab did not work, and was not a deep enough level of surrender. This helped to prepare me for what was to become my real journey into recovery later on.

My first two times that I went to rehab, I put in a certain amount of effort. I had a certain level of willingness. I had a certain amount of follow through after I left. For example, I was willing at one time to give up one drug but not another. I had to try this for myself in order to learn that it would not work. I had to try and fail before I would become willing to “do things their way.”

But before I could accept the real solution into my life, I had to warm up to that solution. I could not just attend rehab once, accept it all, and dive in and follow every direction. I admit that this is eventually what it took in order for recovery to work for me. But I can look back now and realize how my first two trips to rehab were necessary in order to slowly expose me to the solution. I would never have accepted it all in one shot. It was too much for me to take on. I had to keep going back out to my addiction and getting my tail kicked a few more times before I became desperate enough to take serious action.

Pass/fail and the infinite value of treatment

Unfortunately, recovery is pass/fail. What I pointed out above is that even though a relapse is a certain “failure,” it may still be a necessary part of the journey, in order to get you to a point in the future where you will become successful. In other words, you may have to try and fail a few times before you finally “get it.” This does not mean that treatment doesn’t work, or that it is a scam. It just means that it usually takes a few tries before the addict learns just how deeply they must commit to recovery.

I have met hundreds, maybe even thousands of people in recovery and talked a lot with them about treatment. I have found that the “3 times in rehab” number is very common. Of course I have met people who did not match this number as well, but I know a lot of people who finally “got it” after attending rehab for the third time. This is just anecdotal evidence but it is still very powerful in my mind.

People believe that because sobriety is pass/fail that treatment is a total scam. Someone can spend lots of time and money in rehab, get out, and relapse immediately. On the other hand, someone can also attend treatment, get out, and never use drugs or alcohol ever again!

Therefore, the pass/fail thing also means that rehab can have an infinite value. Instead of being a “total scam,” rehab becomes the ultimate gift.

What do you think I value my own recovery at, and therefore my last trip to rehab? I can assure you that from many different viewpoints, my last trip to rehab has nearly infinite value to me. Just consider:

* My quality of life over the last 11 years and how much better it is because I went to treatment.
* The quality of my relationships due to my recovery.
* The vast improvement in my spiritual connection since I stopped self medicating.
* Vast improvement in finances (return on investment for the cost of rehab–most people save roughly a million dollars every 30 years by being in recovery!)

And so on. The above are just a few examples, in reality there are many more benefits than just these to a sustained recovery.

It is a little bit like playing the lottery. There is a chance that if you go to treatment that you will hit a home run. Really your odds of this are very good, all it takes is complete surrender and a willingness to follow directions. Make that decision now and then a few years (or even months) down the road you could be rewarded with this incredible new life.

The reason that treatment has nearly an infinite value is because the gulf between the two paths is so vast. The two choices that every addict and alcoholic essentially faces is:

1) Stay stuck in the choas and misery of their addiction.
2) Get clean and sober and experience an awesome new life in recovery.

There really is not a whole lot of in-between for an addict or alcoholic. The nature of our disease does not allow us to take a middle path through life. We cannot decide to just “lay off the sauce a little” and sort of do a “half addiction, half in recovery” sort of life. Many have tried this and the result always turns out to be just as bad as “all the way stuck in addiction.” Therefore there is really no in between. They state this idea in AA as well: “You are either working on recovery or you are working on a relapse.” Recovery and addiction are extremely polarizing.

Even a “tiny” relapse quickly blows up and you will descend back into the full chaos and misery of addiction. Recovery will have a tendency to be positive and trend upwards, otherwise the addict or alcoholic will become frustrated and just return to what works: self medicating.

Why rehab is not a scam

Ultimately we can argue that treatment is not a scam because:

* Arguably no one other than 12 step programs is working harder to help struggling addicts and alcoholics.
* The pass/fail nature of recovery makes it so that success gives treatment a near-infinite value.
* Treatment is ulitmately for those who want it, not those who need. You have to seek out help for yourself.


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