They Spent Six Figures on Son's Rehab. It Didn't Work

Vox investigates the nation's questionable rehab system
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2019 9:55 AM CDT
Updated Sep 8, 2019 1:05 PM CDT
The Flip Side of the Opioid Crisis: An Iffy Rehab System
This undated photo released by the Arizona office of the Drug Enforcement Administration shows seized fentanyl pills.   (Drug Enforcement Administration via AP)

(Newser) – The booming opioid crisis has led to a rising need for rehab facilities to help people get sober. The problem is these places are expensive and, as Vox explains, they often don't work. As an example, the story focuses on the plight of Kim and Tim Blake of Vermont, who spent at least $110,000 on multiple rehab stints for their son Sean. He went in and out of various facilities over the years, but he died in 2017 of an overdose of fentanyl and alcohol at the age of 27. Reporter German Lopez writes that the Blakes are not alone. "In story after story, the same experience was repeated over and over: of patients and families getting sucked into an American rehab industry that is largely unregulated, shockingly ineffective, and ruinously expensive."

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One issue is that the American rehab system is dominated by the 12-step approach, but it doesn't work for all patients, particularly those with drug addictions, writes Lopez. Other approaches seem to be on even less sure ground, including wilderness therapy, equine therapy, and the "confrontational approach," all of which are explained in the story. “It is a scam,” declares Carol Beyer, founder of Families for Sensible Drug Policy, who lost two sons to drug overdoses. Like the Blakes, she is working toward reform, and Lopez thinks it's possible. "I’ve seen it in my reporting time and time again: When people’s needs are met where they are, when evidence-based practices are followed, and when treatment is quickly accessible, people with years- or even decades-long addictions can get better." Read the full story for more. Vox also is asking for first-person experiences as part of a larger series, the Rehab Racket. (Read more Longform stories.)

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