Addiction Treatment

How to Avoid Rehab Scams: Red Flags to Look Out For

April 24th, 2018
Many rehab centers try to exploit people who need treatment.

This blog was updated July 21st, 2020

While it is no longer front-page news, the opioid epidemic is far from over. In fact, recent reports show an increase in opioid-related deaths since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more individuals struggle with addiction, the number of addiction treatment centers and sober living homes opening across the country are skyrocketing. Unfortunately, so are the number of horror stories from individuals and their families who have been scammed by facilities that do not offer quality treatment and are instead designed to take advantage of those struggling with addiction. While getting help sooner rather than later is crucial, taking the time to find the right treatment center can make all the difference. When looking for help, do your research and watch out for red flags to ensure that you receive the quality of care you deserve.

Signs of A Rehab Scam

Patient Brokering

Brokers receive kickbacks any time they send someone to specific treatment centers. Their main concern is making money, not matching you with a qualified treatment center that meets your needs. In some cases, brokers shop clients around to different rehabs, and supply clients with drugs to keep them relapsing and needing their services. Recognizing when you are talking to a broker isn’t always easy, but if you call an 800 number that is not directly connected to the treatment facility, you are probably dealing with a broker. Vague online ads and generic websites are also signs that you are dealing with a third party that is selling your information as a lead to a treatment center.

Paid Directory Listings

Rehab directories can be helpful tools during your initial research, but you should always be cautious when using them. While many are legitimate, some work with brokers and treatment centers to poach potential clients from one treatment center to another. Good rehab directories will list each treatment center’s phone number and website, allowing you to contact them directly. If a directory doesn’t provide that contact information but rather uses a single 800 number, you might be dealing with a scammer. To ensure you receive the correct information, it is best to contact the treatment center you are interested in directly. Rather than calling the general number listed in the directory, do a quick google search for the treatment center’s name. This should provide you the correct contact information, ensuring that you will speak with the right people. 

Paid Travel (And Other Expenses)

Be on the lookout for any rehab facility that offers to pay for your travel, particularly cross-country flights. These rehab scams typically offer to fly clients out to their facilities for treatment, claiming that costs will be covered either by the treatment center or insurance. Insurances do not cover travel costs and rehabs offering free travel are typically brokers or marketers who receive kickbacks for every admission they receive. While avoiding travel costs can be tempting, making treatment decisions based on the promise of free travel or luxuries can be extremely dangerous and very costly in the long-run. Also be wary of facilities that offer to pay for insurance coverage, and specially of those that offer to pay for you to get treatment at their facility.

Being accredited is not a requirement for addiction treatment centers, which enables many to offer subpar treatment, and in some cases, no treatment at all. When calling treatment centers, ask what their accreditations are and make sure that they have an accreditation seal prominently displayed on their website. Reputable treatment centers will be accredited by The Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Having these accreditations means that they must adhere to much higher standards than other facilities.

Vague Treatment Information

Picking a treatment center or sober house should be an informed decision. Organizations that only offer vague information about their offerings, location, and staff are likely trying to hide the fact that they are unqualified to treat you. Don’t fall for the promises of recovery; instead, focus on the facts. Ask what their treatment really entails – what evidence-based therapies do they offer? Do they offer psychiatric services? Do they offer medication-assisted treatment? Do they have a doctor on site? Do they have wellness therapies? Asking specific questions will help you differentiate between legitimate treatment centers and scammers.

Guarantees

Not even the best treatment centers can guarantee that you will be sober in 30 days. Addiction is a lifelong journey that is largely shaped by you and your commitment to sobriety. Any rehab or sober living house that promises to be the cure to your addiction is exploiting your desire to get better. While sobriety is the goal, no reputable facility will claim a 100% success rate. Instead, look for facilities that offer a strong program, are transparent about their offerings, have a team of licensed and accredited medical and addiction treatment professionals, and offer services and support, even after you have completed treatment.

How to Find a Legitimate Rehab

While knowing how to recognize the warning signs of a rehab scam is important, learning what makes a treatment center legitimate can make you feel more confident in your decision. Here are some things to keep in mind when finding the right addiction treatment center for you.

Longevity

While there are new treatment facilities that offer high-quality care, it is typically safer to go with a treatment center that has been around for a while, preferably one that has been around for over 5 years. This helps protect you against opportunistic rehabs trying to cash in on the drug epidemic. 

Credentials

Addiction is a disease, and as so, it requires evidence-based treatment administered by trained professionals. When looking for a treatment center, be sure to ask about their staffs' credentials. Do they have degrees or special certifications? Are they trained in any particular treatment practice? Reputable rehabs have no problem being transparent about their staffs' knowledge and experience, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Accreditation

When doing your research, look for rehabs with accreditation by CARF or The Joint Commission. Treatment facilities must undergo rigorous evaluations to get accredited, which is why choosing an accredited rehab ensures that you receive the best care possible.

Tailored Treatment Plans

Qualified treatment centers know that taking a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment isn’t effective and therefore offer a wide range of treatment options to meet their clients’ individual needs.  

Aftercare Planning

Data shows that the first 90 days after completing treatment are often the most dangerous for those in early recovery. When talking with any rehab that you are considering, ask them about their aftercare planning and what kind of support they will offer you after you leave their care. Do they have an alumni program? Do they offer any support groups for those in early recovery? 


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