Creating a better system of addiction treatment: Matching rehabs to patients

I can’t hide it any longer, I just have to confess: I hate the way addiction treatment is managed nowadays. With over 25 million people meeting criteria for addictions in the U.S., only 10% are seeking treatment on a yearly basis. Sure, part of the problem is that others just don’t want it, at least yet, but there’s something else going on and it’s terrible.

The horrible pain of finding addiction treatment

If you, or someone you know, needs help for an addiction, your options aren’t just limited, they’re hard to find and are simply too stressful to deal with. Where do you even start? Most people wouldn’t dare go to their neighbors or family members with something like “Bobby is really struggling with his cocaine problem, do you have an idea of what we should do?” Instead, everyone is left fending for themselves, scared of going to doctors for fear of later insurance trouble, ashamed to admit their difficulties for fear of being stigmatized, and inundated with conflicting information about their chances for recovery if they do seek help.

So people go online, they seek out information, and they call provider after provider, often getting only partial semi-truths. At the end, most are left confused and the rest simply check in to the first place that will take them given their financial reality. Could you imagine if the same were true when someone broke their leg?

But isn’t addiction treatment really useless?

No, it’s not. Treatment works. It’s just that most people don’t get the treatment they need and end up paying the price (literally and figuratively). Well guess what, help is possible, it’s available, and it shouldn’t be this damn hard to find!

I think it’s about time we create a system that makes it easy for those suffering from addiction to find the right treatment for them. Not everyone needs treatment that costs $50,000 a month, and to be perfectly honest, that treatment is rarely better than much cheaper options. Still, no one would know that given bogus advertisements by rich addiction-industry-players that promise cures and fixes. The truth is that recovery is a difficult road and that different individuals may need different treatment.

Still, we know things that work: CBT works, motivational interviewing works, social-support, contingency-management, exercise, meditation, and specific medications work! So why is it that the addiction treatment industry still looks like something put together by a couple of addicts who suffer from too much self-focus and not enough organizational-capacity? Well, probably because that’s exactly our reality at the moment.

How can we make things better? Matching rehabs to patients

I say it’s time for a new age, especially given the passage of mental-health and addiction parity laws and the slow, but eventual inclusion of our most vulnerable citizens in the American health care system. As addiction-treatment becomes (finally) incorporated with medical care, the increased resources are going to mean an increased need for some standardization. It’s time for us to put people in treatment that works, that everyone can afford, and that is easy to find.

We’re currently testing a system that will use some basic, and some a bit more advanced, criteria to help direct addicts towards the right provider for them. Don’t have much money and working full-time? Then residential treatment should probably not be your first choice? Medicated for schizophrenia? You better stay away from providers that don’t offer serious mental health services (though they’ll sure take you if you walk through their doors)

We’re still figuring out the kinks, trying to improve the system even further than its current state, which I think is nothing short of magical. Eventually, I hope that it will be available for everyone, giving people real, reliable, objective access to addiction-treatment providers that do good work across the united States. It’s that easy to find a condo to buy, why shouldn’t it be that easy to find help?

Yes, I have almost 10 years of research experience into what works, but in truth, most of the issues here probably don’t require that at all. What’s needed is a little big-picture thinking and a little less fine-tooth combing. Hospitals can triage people based on a pretty quick, efficient, assessment. We can too.

5 responses to “Creating a better system of addiction treatment: Matching rehabs to patients”

  1. Yes the question is How the system works? what do they offer in there The Rehab?? who do you ask all these questions it’s emberrasing to say well my loved one is a meth addict how can I help him I heard this is the number 1 drug that is very addicting and hard to quit We took him in to a program a non for profit but the thing is they dont offer meds all they were really offering was a bed and counseling Im sure all of this would help but what about all the with the withdrawls the anxiety the pain? and financially its terrible for the people that cannot afford it.

  2. Hi Esmeralda,
    That’s exactly why our system will include free, cheap, moderately priced, and expensive rehab centers. But cost is only going to be about 10% of the equation for some people.
    Like you said, it can be very time consuming and uncomfortable to make all these phone calls yourself, and that’s wwhere our system will come in!
    By the way, medications are expensive, so even places that allow them don’t pay for them. A client normally needs something like medicare, medical, or their own private insurance for that stuff.
    .-= Adi Jaffe´s last blog ..Salvia, a popular hallucinogen that is much shorter-acting than LSD =-.

  3. My 22 yr old son died from addiction and abuse of Ritalin/Methylphendate. He was prescribed this highly addictive schedule 2 drug. A schedule 2 drug is a highly addictive drug that has medicinal uses. After my son was in college he seemed fine. He was on the Dean’s list until something went wrong. He was abusing the drug and I think he had damaged his brain like Dr. Nora Volkow talks about in the HBO Addiction Documentary. My son Sean went to Memorial Herman in Houston on referral of a local Psychiatrist. Sean made it 22 days before they kicked Sean out for not buying in to his addiction. The program was only 32 days long. Sean did not need another failure to shame him more. I do not recommend any treatment under 90 days. Lie if you have to, but get them help. Say they talked about suicide or killing you. If they are adults it is so hard to get them treatment if they don’t want help. No one wants to be labeled an addict, especially after being a golden boy in College. Sean died 7 days later at a halfway house that was a hell hole that PaRC referred on their list. Sean found a doctor (MD) who gave him 90 pills (20 mg). 2 days later their were 5 1/2 left. That is over 84 pills in 2 days. The autopsy showed a concentration of 1225 mg/L in his stomach. 1000 mg = 1 gram, which is a lot of amphetamine/Ritalin. I hope to find someone who can analyze a sample of his brain they saved to show that Ritalin caused his brain damage resulting in his addiction, abuse, and death. I don’t want money I want to honor my son’s life and help stop this drug from killing children. There should be a database in every state that keeps up with each prescription, doctor, psychiatrist and emergency room visit where drugs are requested. My son did this and received Ritalin at a bill to his insurance for $1,400. He told us he was having respiratory problems, and wanted an x-ray. IF you can help me contact me at

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