The treatment industry needs to clean house

November 25, 2013
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There are a lot of industries related to prohibition that are full of corruption and that put self-interest above value to society.

One that is not discussed sufficiently is the treatment industry.

We all recognize that there are people who need help — those who cannot deal with the vicissitudes of life by themselves — and for that reason we recognize that treatment is a potentially valuable service to both individuals and society. We also understand that many who enter this field do so out of a legitimate and unselfish desire to help people, and that they believe the work they are doing has that capability.

However, it’s time for the larger community to understand and address the fact that as a field, the treatment industry is rife with corruption. There are huge profits to be made that depend not on helping people, but rather on insuring that a large number of “customers” go through their system.

I have noted here in the past that there are literally thousands of treatment centers regularly fighting to improve their google ratings, many of them begging to pay me to place text ads on my site, all to take advantage of the easy paycheck from criminal justice referrals for “treatment.”

And, of course, regulars here already know that whenever they hear someone in the news defending prohibition, the odds are about 9-1 that they have a connection to the treatment industry. Oh, sure, not all are merely corrupt — some may actually have deluded themselves that grabbing the easy money that comes from prohibition is somehow OK because it allows them to also help the people who need it, but that’s a copout.

A friend who spent some time in the criminal justice system for possessing enough cannabis to sell recently came forward to tell me about his experience with treatment.

“As part of my conditions of probation I was asked to enter a drug treatment program for treatment of my dependence on cannabis.

I was recommended a treatment center by the court system, which I went to. The guy who owned the treatment center sat down and did my intake appointment. We ended up getting pretty friendly and he came out of left field with the following: “If you can help me out I can help you out.” What ended up happening was I paid the guy $200 for his pocket, $200 for the classes, and he signed a paper saying that I had completed 20 hours of drug treatment.

I did it. Of course. I smoke pot, but I’m not dependent on substances, and I was happy to not have to sit through a bullshit class about drug dependency and DUI’s. But as time has gone on and I see how our criminal justice system works, it truly saddens me and I had to speak up about it. Truly makes me sick.”

Cannabis treatment is one of the biggest scams in the industry. A dramatically high percentage of those entering treatment for cannabis are there because of criminal justice referral. And even those who self-refer are often doing so because it’ll look better to a judge.

When the government’s own figures show that 38% of those entering treatment for cannabis haven’t even used it in the past 30 days, that’s got to raise questions.

Now I’m not in any way denying the existence of the category of cannabis dependency, but there’s a wide range of degrees of dependency, lots of options besides treatment for mild dependency (where cannabis clearly falls), and clear evidence that huge numbers are entering treatment solely because of the criminal justice system and not because of a need for treatment.

Despite this fact, I’ve never found an instance of someone being denied treatment because they were determined to not need it. And yet, isn’t treating someone who doesn’t need it unethical? (I’d be happy to hear from treatment centers that actually only accept those who need help, rather than all those for whom there is money to collect.)

And we’re not even getting into the problems with treatment regimes in the United States for those who do have problems. There’s a lot of evidence that cold-turkey, high-stress programs are much less effective than those based on harm reduction, and yet we rarely have that discussion on a national basis.

Unless the legitimate players in the treatment industry step forward and condemn the abuses and call for reevaluation of their own business, there’s little reason for us to accept anything they have to say.

They can no longer depend on an ignorant public simply believing them. That day is coming to a close. It’s time to clean house, or eventually be relegated to the category of quacks like historic barbers who bled their patients.

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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