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Rehabs that Prey on Addicts

Recently I read a disturbing investigative report about work-based US rehab (for profit) businesses and how they are taking advantage of people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.  Some addicts enter these rehabs because family members can’t care for their loved ones; more often, addicts end up in these so-called ‘therapeutic’ addiction rehabs through the courts’ alternative sentencing programs, which sound preferable to imprisonment. 

Anyway, no matter how they get enrolled, the addicts and their family and friends are prohibited from seeing or even speaking to each other, and the addicts are forbidden to have contact with the outside world, under threat of being sent to prison.  The report exposes this and a trend of unfair labor and dehumanizing practices at these unlicensed facilities.  People in need of treatment and health care are being forced to work long hours, sometimes grueling hard labor, for no pay.    While these so-called rehab centers say they keep the pay of their participants to cover the cost of housing and treatment they are reportedly making huge financial profits off the cheap labor.  I think it’s modern day slavery! Furthermore, these treatment businesses believe in using verbal abuse and punishment as therapy to overcome addiction.  This unlawful money-making scheme and shameful treatment of vulnerable people is going on, unchecked, under the radar. 

Research on how best to treat people who are struggling “shows that the best outcomes result from medication-based approaches, using such proven pharmaceuticals as buprenorphine, combined with individualized counseling. Although a stable, paying job can aid recovery, studies have found that work alone is not an effective treatment for addiction.”1a So why do these unlicensed, unregulated work-based programs still exist? They certainly do not administer these proven medication-based methods or provide individual counseling.  This investigative report, I’m highlighting, has identified “at least 300 rehab facilities in 44 states that have required participants to work without pay. In recent years, at least 60,000 people a year attended such rehab programs.”1a They are thriving because these businesses are fueled by the current opioid crisis and by the war on drugs, which goes as far back as the Reagan administration.  To reduce overcrowded prisons and government spending, our court systems across the country are forcing convicted drug and alcohol addicts to choose either work-based rehab centers or jail.  These for-profit rehabs have a built-in supply-chain for their forced labor business.  It is shocking to also see that some of the judges participating in this human trafficking scheme stand to gain financially as part of their participation. 

I urge you to look at what is going on; share this information with your network of family and friends and with your congressional representatives and state representatives.  The “treatment” methods of these rehabs isn’t evaluated and it doesn’t work.  Stories told by former rehab enrollees are quite appalling.  I think it is important to get this information out to as many people as possible.  Someone must stand up for those that need help.  I also suggest letting the reporters breaking this story know that you support what they are doing.  This incredible ongoing story is being told by two investigative reporters, Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter.  They published their story on the Reveal website, which is part of the non-profit investigative journalism organization, the Center for Investigative Reporting.  Amy and Shoshana have been pursuing this story for the last three years. 

I hope you see the injustice the actions of these so-called rehab facilities are having on those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.  And I hope you will pass this information on to others.  We need to shed light on it so that our courts and government stop enabling these unlawful and abusive labor practices.  I welcome everyone’s feedback.  Click on the comment link below to submit your comments and feedback.  You can also E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  I look forward to hearing from you.


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None of the materials, books, essays or lectures should be read or accepted uncritically, nor should any one of them be considered an authoritative and dogmatically binding thesis representing a humanist doctrine. We do not want "followers"; or "true believers"; but freethinking partners in a great spiritual enterprise.