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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Video: Documentary Takes Aim at Luxury Rehab Industry

A two-part Vice documentary offers a critical investigation into the highly-profitable drug and alcohol treatment industry.

5 Substance

The US drug and alcohol rehab industry currently rakes in billions of dollars a year, with nearly 15,000 facilities across the country. According to a 2009 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 23.5 million Americans over age 12 qualify for drug and alcohol treatment, but only about 10% of them—2.6 million people—ever receive it. And with rates of substance misuse and addiction rising, for-profit facilities are proliferating to meet the demand. Luxury rehabs—made famous by celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and popular shows like Intervention and Celeb Rehab—can cost as much as $75,000 a month. And, yet, enrollment numbers keep rising.

Many high-profile celebrities have credited these centers with helping ease them through the tumultuous process of early recovery. But critics argue that 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, can just as effectively meet peoples’ needs at no cost. So, even for the elite percentage of Americans who can afford it, are high-end rehabs really the best option? In a documentary series (Part I below), Vice visits Southern California, an area dense with  luxury rehabs, to take a critical look at the for-profit addiction treatment industry.