How to Spot a Bad Addiction Treatment Program


Making the choice to enter a drug treatment program is one of the most important decisions for someone struggling with addiction. But not all programs are created equal. Research shows that, with the growing national opioid crisis, some drug treatment centers are focusing more on profits than patient care. How can you be sure you’re getting the professional care and treatment services you need to finally overcome dependence on drugs or alcohol? What dictates quality addiction care? How do you spot a bad addiction treatment program?

When the Bottom Line Matters More than Rock Bottom

Picture of a prescription hydrocodone bottle with pills. A recent investigation by NBC News found that unscrupulous addiction treatment centers in South Florida are capitalizing on federal loopholes to make profits from the nation’s opioid epidemic.[1] By billing insurance companies millions of dollars for needless testing and counseling services, they’re more concerned with making money than making a difference in the lives of those struggling with addiction. Many of these corrupt treatment centers not only overlook drug use, but encourage it because their patients’ relapses lead to more profits.

Making the decision to seek treatment is difficult enough without having to worry about the quality of care you receive. So, how can families separate the bad drug treatment programs from the good? Experts and law enforcement officials have compiled tips and questions for patients and their loved ones.[2]

Warning Signs of a Bad Addiction Treatment Program

  • Picture of a plane flying. Generic advertisements or websites: Reputable addiction care centers will clearly identify the name of the treatment program they’re offering. Ads or website that are clearly generic and unidentifiable may be created by “brokers” who are simply collecting contact information of potential patients for whichever treatment center is paying them to do so.
  • Unsolicited referrals: Because brokers are paid by the treatment centers they represent, they may try to talk you into a program that may not be right for you or your loved one. If the person you’re speaking to receives referral fees from an addiction care center, that’s a red flag.
  • Offers free travel: In some states, paid travel to a drug treatment center is considered an illegal inducement. If the person with whom you’re speaking offers to cover travel costs to an out-of-state location, it’s a good idea to call the facility directly to confirm that he or she is an actual employee acting in your best interest. The same goes for any offers to pay for or waive insurance coverages or deductibles. It’s best to call your insurance company in these cases.
  • Offers of free rent from sober homes: Corrupt treatment centers often partner with operators of so-called “sober homes” to find patients with good health insurance by enticing them with free rent, grocery store gift cards and cigarettes in exchange for going to a specific treatment center, which in turn earns them a “kickback,” or an illicit payment from the treatment center for the referral.
  • Limited discovery process: A good treatment center will spend a lot of time with a potential patient, asking for in-depth information and access to counselors or therapists previously used. Without these important details, the center won’t be able to truly know whether the patient is the right fit.
  • Daily tests: Treatment centers bill a patient’s insurance for drug screens and laboratory tests. If you or your loved one is undergoing daily or near-daily testing, that center is billing tens of thousands of dollars, which is not necessarily required and only increasing its bottom line.

Picture of a man in a business suit speaking to a therapist.

  • Lack of individual therapy: Many crooked treatment centers will limit the number of individual sessions they offer because they’re more costly than holding group sessions. Remember that individual therapy is more costly because it works.
  • Lack of licenses or accreditations: A facility that is licensed and accredited is held to specific standards. Those centers that cannot show these credentials will not provide the level of care that’s required for recovery.
  • Limited programs: Drug treatment centers should offer a wide range of services, from support groups and confidence-building activities to medical and mental-health care. These programs and therapies may involve addressing the individual’s motivation to change, providing incentives for abstinence, building skills to resist substance use, replacing the addiction with constructive and rewarding activities, and facilitating better interpersonal relationships. Without these necessary components, lasting recovery won’t be achievable.

Questions to Ask Before Entering Treatment

Lifetime recovery is possible with treatment and management, but everyone has their own story and needs to follow a treatment path that meets their unique needs. As you or your loved one considers a treatment program, here are some questions to ask to ensure you’re choosing a reputable facility that fits your needs.

  • Is the center staffed with certified chemical dependency counselors?
  • Does the facility have a medical director on staff?
  • Are the center’s medical doctors certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine?
  • Does the treatment center offer care for other medical needs, such as mental health?
  • Are licensed employees available 24 hours per day?
  • What is the staff to patient ratio?
  • Does the program address the patient’s history and family history?
  • Does the center employ an evidence-based approach to ensure its treatment plans are rooted in scientific knowledge?
  • Does the center offer customized treatment plans as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach?
  • Is there support offered after the patient finished treatment, (i.e., Does the program boast a continuum of care approach with alumni programs and after-care support)?
  • When it comes to insurance, is the facility in network; if not, what out-of-pocket expenses can be expected?

“Everyone has their own story and needs to follow a treatment path that meets their unique needs.”

Not every drug treatment center is the right fit for every person. In your search for addiction care, don’t just rely on phone calls, emails and claims. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also provides a free confidential hotline and search tool to help you with your research.[3]

Above all, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Addiction is a widespread problem and there are plenty people affected by it who are willing to offer support and advice. As Florida’s most renowned drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, Unity Behavioral Health has helped thousands of people recover from the impact of addiction. Our staff of professionals are specifically trained and experienced in the field of addiction medicine to ensure every person receives the personalized care he or she needs. Contact us today to learn more about our life-changing programs.

  1. http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/megyn-kelly/florida-s-billion-dollar-drug-treatment-industry-plagued-overdoses-fraud-n773376
  2. http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/megyn-kelly/how-find-good-drug-treatment-program-avoid-bad-ones-n776101
  3. https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/