Anyone who has struggled with addiction or watched a loved one suffer knows that it can be incredibly difficult to stay healthy and sober. Often, those dealing with addiction want to reclaim control of their lives and be able to function independently, but this can be hard to do without a stable financial situation.
For many in recovery, detox facilities, sober homes and other forms of addiction support groups offer a light at the end of the tunnel. While these places can be excellent tools for starting over on better footing, they can also be dangerous traps for unsuspecting and vulnerable people.
The country’s opioid crisis has given rise to an unscrupulous class of people who engage in what is known as addiction patient brokering. This practice essentially lets these people exploit those recovering from addiction for a payday. Not all facilities and support groups are predatory, however, so it’s important to be informed and understand the red flags.
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What is Addiction Patient Brokering?
Patient brokering sometimes referred to as body brokering is a practice that preys on people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. At its core, the scheme offers compensation to the “recruiters” or “brokers” who refer patients to certain treatment facilities.
This leads people who are struggling with sobriety into a vicious cycle of relapse, detox, and treatment. Brokers will most often show up at addiction support meetings, both in-person and online, as well as popular hangout spots and even certain treatment facilities. They will use financial incentives and sometimes even drugs or alcohol to entice people into specific rehab centers so that they can receive a hefty commission from these places.
How Does it Happen?
Frequently, these people find their victims through online and in-person support groups for drug or alcohol addiction. With the rise of social media, platforms like Facebook make it even easier for these people to pose as either fellow in recovery or people who have a “perfect solution” for those hoping to stay clean and regain control of their lives.
This is why it’s incredibly important for anyone in recovery to be wary of how much personal information is shared in any support group. Most are safe spaces, but it’s better to be overly cautious and skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true. Brokers prey on those who are willing to share a lot of personal details, especially if they have health insurance or come from well-to-do families.
Survivors often mention that they would meet people in counseling meetings that would offer to help them get into a new rehab facility but always with the caveat of asking about what kind of insurance they have.
The dishonest treatment centers that utilize body brokering are able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars by excessively billing patients’ insurance companies for outrageous sums of money. This means that they can offer incentives of $500 or more to these brokers without cutting into their profits.
Is it Legal?
Ultimately, no, this practice is not legal. However, it’s made possible because of lax restrictions and laws that have easily exploitable loopholes. Centers can use misleading advertising and skilled sales pitches to essentially “buy and sell” patients to turn a profit.
The Affordable Care Act, coupled with the nationwide opioid epidemic, has led the rehabilitation industry into a serious boom. To keep the money rolling in, some less-than-ethical centers will plant paid marketers into online groups under the guise of recovery or someone with a success story.
The good news is that patient brokering has become more widely recognized. This has led to legislators and lobby groups that are working to get regulations tightened and restore the reputation of the recovery industry as a whole.
Are Addiction Support Groups Safe?
While this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by the nation as a whole, it’s important to state that addiction and recovery support groups, in general, are not all bad news. There will always be unethical people who engage in practices like patient brokering and even drug peddling within support groups. These people recognize and prey on vulnerability, both online and in person.
However, for every bad apple, there are several honest, goodhearted people who just want the friendship and connection of people who understand their situation. Often, lasting connections can be made amongst addiction survivors, and having other people to keep you tethered to the world can make a huge impact when things feel dark or hopeless.
The biggest thing for anyone going through detox or struggling with addiction to remember is that they should be cautious about handing over any type of personal information, especially in an online setting. Sharing is part of recovery, but offering personal details, talking about finances, or discussing insurance should not happen in the majority of situations.
Choose a Reputable Rehab Center For Help
The best thing to do if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction is to find a trustworthy addiction treatment facility that is focused on truly helping.
Ocean Hills Recovery is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, which is a third-party, nonprofit organization that evaluates patient outcomes and assesses the quality of services provided. We never participate in patient brokering, and we don’t use advertising gimmicks to sell services. We’re here to provide genuine help and get you started on your recovery journey.
Don’t hesitate to call or email us if you’re ready to start taking control of your life again.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.