America is facing a harrowing opioid epidemic, one that kills thousands of people each year. But the rehab system that could help combat the crisis is failing. It is far too expensive for typical families and often provides addiction treatments that aren’t proven or actually have evidence against them.
“The problem in the industry isn’t that we have a few bad actors,” Tami Mark, a health economist at the research foundation RTI International, told me. “It’s that a large portion of the addiction industry isn’t providing the type of care that we know leads to recovery.”
Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to addiction treatment patients and their families, hearing about the many failings of the addiction treatment system. Many of them shared stories of spending tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars for care that ultimately didn’t help them get better. They told me of unproven approaches, such as equine therapy (in which patients spend time with horses), wilderness therapy (focused on outdoor activities), and confrontational treatments.
And they told me, time and time again, of the deaths the rehab system couldn’t prevent.
“It is a scam,” Carol Beyer told me. She estimates she spent more than $100,000 on treatment and she still lost her two sons to drug overdoses.
Here at Vox, I want to hear more from patients and their families, so for the next year or so, I’m asking people to share their stories with me. If you’d like to help out, please complete the form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.