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The Price of Addiction: So Much More Than Dollars and Cents.


Some rehab centers are preying on a population that can't defend itself against abuse and they must be stopped.


In every conversation I've ever had regarding the disease of addiction somehow the topic always found its way back to the cost. We've all heard the horror stories of how pricey these resort-style rehabs can be. I can only imagine the dollars spent on advertising. The glossy photos that would appear on my computer screen looked like something I would book if I was searching for a romantic getaway with my husband. The beaches, the palm trees and the pools all waiting for the arrival of our addicted sons and daughters. All promising they were the best. They had the best, they provided the best and so on. I would scroll through and think, Damn, I should start taking drugs just so I could attend one of these fabulous places in the sun. 

I closed my eyes and had this flashback from my early nursing days working as the charge nurse on the floor of a popular nursing home. The pamphlets showed all the beauty. The common rooms and the gardens all looked like something that advertised luxury living. Hiding the smell of urine. The people strapped into Geri chairs, drool running down their shirts. Left to their own devices. The horror that lay behind those beautiful rooms for only the staff to see. How could the owners of those homes deceive the public and charge exorbitant amounts of money for such inadequate care?  

Could another industry be as deceptive in their marketing of providing safe, effective care in a beautiful setting and continue to stay in business? I'm afraid they can.

I've lived the experience that so many other parents share. We had faith in the recovery system. We believed the brochures and those caring people that led us to trust that our child's recovery was utmost on their mind. They told us they cared and would do everything in their power to ensure our addicts were kept safe and sound. They gave us a false sense of security allowing us to take that breath, feeling that we were sending our addict to the best place possible.  

Then they hit us with the price tag for this most amazing care. As parents, we were emotional wrecks. We would do anything and pay anything to have the nightmare that our child's addiction had inflicted onto our lives come to an end. So we drained our savings, depleted our retirement accounts and remortgaged our homes because we were desperate to believe these so-called addiction professionals held the keys to a world that could save our children. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is characterized by intense, uncontrollable drug cravings. So why do these so-called experts allow our kids freedom to leave the grounds and explore these new surroundings unsupervised? Matt had been accepted into a rehab in Florida, after I came up with $3,000. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang at 10 p.m. and it was Matt.

"Hi Mom, I'm walking to the beach."

"You're what?”

"Yeah I'm just checking out the beach.”

"Seriously, you are unsupervised on your second night in rehab and you're out and about?”

So now that familiar feeling of anxiety bursts through the false security I'd been fed by the owners that were more than happy to cash my check and allow my son more freedom than he ever had at home. 

Unfortunately, this seems to be a common practice. Another mother also bought into the promise of a safe place for her heroin-using daughter. After spending $8,000 for a month's stay at a luxury rehab, she received the same shocking phone call.

"Hi Mom, I'm at the gym.”

"You mean the gym in the rehab?”

"No, Mom. I'm allowed to go to the gym, pharmacy and grocery store.”

My question is, just what services are we getting for our thousands of dollars? Why are addicts permitted freedom when research shows that being drug-free for a few days is not a cure? Addicts require long-term care in a safe, drug-free environment to have the chance of achieving the goal of sobriety. 

If the research is available for parents to find and read, why aren't these professionals educated in the basic fundamentals of caring for newly sober addicts? Why were these programs allowed the freedom to enable our kids to return to the only way of life they've known? It's no surprise that both of our kids relapsed. It's no surprise that both these rehabs in Florida offered their help again after we spent a few thousand dollars more for a higher level of care. So, in reality, all we got for our money was random urine drug tests and broken promises. Our kids were set up to fail by a system that says one thing but does another. Placing three addicts at varying levels of sobriety in a cramped apartment. No formal counseling or one-on-one sessions as promised.

What are parents supposed to do? We are thousands of miles away from our kids. We trusted a system and the self-proclaimed professionals responsible for overseeing their treatment and we were failed. These rehabs throw addicts out into the streets if they are caught using. I get the fact that the using addicts must be removed from the general population. I get the fact that rules were broken. I have a hard time understanding how they can take in thousands of dollars on a monthly basis yet there isn't a back-up plan for relapse.

As noted by NIDA, the chronic nature of addiction means that relapsing is not only possible but likely. So again my question is, why don't these professed addiction professionals expect and know how to safely respond to a relapse? The streets are not the answer. According to the Prescription Drug Abuse Research Report, Florida has the 11th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States. Yet, these rehabs continue to advertise and give parents like me false hope that they will give our addicts the best shot at recovery.  

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. The lawmakers in Florida had knowledge that both rehabs and sober houses have been kicking addicts to the curb for years. They have chosen to turn their backs on this unacceptable practice until recently. The Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) has stepped up. Its goal is to regulate this broken industry. To get rid of the vultures that rob us of our money and our children. Sadly, because of Florida Homestead laws most of these unscrupulous sober-living homeowners will continue their practice of making a living off our kids and then throwing them away like the disposable income they are thought to be. Florida law will not allow the regulation to become mandatory. I really don't think any of these places will step up and allow regulations to rob them of easy money.

While these regulatory bodies are well-intentioned and might have the potential to start a change toward the treatment of addiction, it's too little too late for many parents like me. Matt died of an overdose in a Florida motel after being kicked out of his sober-living house by the owner. Many briefly sober addicts are back at it, except now they are using on the streets of Florida where they were dumped by those recovery professionals that cashed checks, told lies and took advantage of parents desperately seeking help for their addicts.  

These two industries are preying on a population that can't defend itself against abuse. The shiny brochures all hiding the ugliness of reality. Families spending thousands of dollars believing their loved ones are being looked after by professionals who care. I don't know about you but I smell a rat! 

MaryBeth Cichocki is a registered nurse living in the state of Delaware. She lost her son, Matt, to an overdose of prescription drugs on January 3rd of this year. Unable to return to the world of taking care of critically ill babies, she now devotes her time to raising awareness of the dangers of these drugs. She writes a blog called telling the story of her battle during her son's addiction. She remains in touch with lawmakers in Florida, where her son lost his life, pushing for regulation of sober living homes. She plans to begin speaking through different organizations, educating the public about the dangers of unregulated pain management clinics. Her dream is to one day have her blog published and set up a scholarship fund in memory of Matt to provide adult addicts the financial means to remain in long-term rehabilitation until they are both physically and mentally ready to return to a productive life.

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