John Oliver on Why You Should Rethink Rehab

Photo: Johannes W. for Unsplash

$73,000 for 30 days. That’s the figure John Oliver quoted for a month’s stay in a well-known addiction rehab center. On Sunday night, Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, delivered a scalding, funny, and occasionally profane rant against the addiction rehabilitation industry—with detours mentioning singer Belinda Carlisle, the phenomenon called equine therapy, and C-3PO from Star Wars.

The 20-minute segment is on YouTube here. (Warning: Oliver’s humor is coupled with uncensored language.)

Among Oliver’s many points, he noted that until recently, addiction was seen as a “moral failing,” a theory that has been since debunked. He added, “Addiction is complex, and nothing about getting off alcohol or drugs is easy.”

But some of his other points were likely surprising to many people, for example: There are no federal standards for counseling practices or rehab programs (The Five Thirty Eight, 7/19/2016). Plus, the vast majority of people in need of addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care. (Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap between Science and Practice, Center for Addiction, June 2012). And as Oliver noted, many rehab centers have claimed a success rate of 80%, but without hard data to support that figure.

Though 12-step programs work for some, most experts today argue in favor of more contemporary techniques, such as behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment. Still, though, these don’t have to come with a high price tag, despite that $73,000 monthly figure, which was mentioned by Richard Taite, founder of Cliffside Malibu (which offers the aforementioned equine therapy, i.e., letting patients spend time in the company of horses).

Oliver also savages the urine testing industry. Noting that a single urine test could bring an institution $1,500 (“Hunting for Addicts,” NBC Left Field, Nov. 2017), Oliver does the math: five tests a week on a single person equal $7,500. Multiply that by six people and the result is $45,000, or $2.3 million a year. No wonder that in some circles, urine is called “liquid gold.”

And there’s no guarantee that someone who enters rehab will emerge cured. Some patients experience what one paper has called “the Florida shuffle,” a cycle of relapse and readmission, repeated over and over (The Palm Beach Post, 12/12/2017).

At Ria Health, we affirm individuals’ right to choose what type of treatment works best for them. We also affirm that some choices don’t work for everyone. Alcoholics Anonymous does work for some people. And for others, checking into rehab does the trick—equine therapy or no equine therapy.

But we also affirm the value of treatment that is affordable—and that works. At Ria, we offer a modern, effective way of dealing with alcohol, with no travel involved, at a fraction of the price of rehab. Ria members don’t have to leave their families, jobs, and lives to recover; they do it in the privacy of home.

Our method begins with objective breathalyzer data (from a smartphone and our app), continues with one of five different medications (such as naltrexone), and includes a doctor’s supervision. This last is crucial: When recommending medication-assisted treatment (MAT), major government health agencies (NIH, NIAAA, SAMHSA) recommend behavioral help and counseling for maximum effectiveness.

And if $73,000 sounds shocking, it is.

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