One Addict's Death Illustrates Sprawling Rehab Industry

'New York Times' explores legal fight involving American Addiction Centers
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2018 11:00 AM CST
Stock photo.   (Getty/DNY59)

(Newser) – One aspect of the story is fairly straightforward: An alcoholic who also happened to have a chronic lung disease checks into a California rehab clinic to get clean and is found dead in his bed the next morning. But the death of Gary Benefield is just a launching point for a New York Times piece about the sprawling, and lucrative, rehab industry in the US; the competing theories on which type of treatment works best; the rise of American Addiction Centers, now one of the biggest rehab companies in the nation; and, for good measure, the role of a financial whiz kid of sorts who sought to dig up dirt on the company and short-sell its stock when the bad news affected the share price.

The short version is that AAC eventually faced murder charges over Benefield's death, with prosecutors arguing that employees acted with malice in their treatment by, for example, giving Benefield sedatives instead of a new oxygen tank. AAC owner Michael Cartwright, a former addict himself, fought back hard, however, and the murder case fizzled. He claims his critics were financial buzzards who made millions on the negative headlines, and they claim his company is more concerned about filling beds and making profits than actually helping their patients. Click for the full story, which draws on interviews of the main players, police, addicts, and investors, as well as court documents.

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