“The truth is, there can be more money in a patient relapsing than in them recovering. So at it’s worse, this system encourages a cycle of admission, recovery, relapse, readmission, and relapse again.”


— John Oliver, Last Week Tonight

John Oliver offered a scathing and witty takedown of the addiction treatment industry on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight on HBO. Through humor, he provided a glimpse of the dark side of the $35 billion industry, which includes 14,500 facilities in the United States.

As someone who’s gone through treatment and is also a trained therapist and practitioner in the field, I have witnessed some of these unethical practices in the field of recovery first hand. It’s encouraging that these practices are finally coming to light. And we know that the things Oliver mentions are just the tip of the iceberg. As one poster said in a Facebook thread about this piece, “It’s all true, but much worse.”

We decided to centralize all of the sources that Oliver lists in his piece as a resource. I hope this list is helpful to get a better understanding of the world of addiction recovery and all of the trappings of the industry.

Whether you are practicing in the industry or seeking care for a loved one, the first step to ethical addiction treatment is to get educated.

If you see anything I missed, please feel free to email at hello@evohw.com.

Sources for Rehab: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Listed in order of appearance in the piece.

Gostin, Nicki. “The Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle says she’s lucky to have a nose after cocaine addiction,” Fox News, April 22, 2013

Addiction Inc,” The New York Times, December 27, 2017

Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide,” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), January 2018.

Szalavitz, Maia.  “What Science Says to Do If Your Loved One Has an Opioid Addiction”, Five Thirty Eight, July 19, 2016.

Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap between Science and Practice,” CASA Columbia, June 2012

25 Investigates: South Florida leaders to New England rehab patient – ‘stay away,’” Boston 25, May 18, 2017

Addiction and Substance Abuse,” Paula Zahn Now, CNN, May 4, 2007.

The Business of Recovery,” Directed by Adam Finberg, Greg Horvath Productions, 2015.

Fake drug treatment centers exploit addicts for insurance fraud and sex-trafficking,” NBC Left Field, NBC, November 29, 2017.

Lane, Laura and Abby Tonsing. “Liquid gold: big profits in drug testing,” Herald Times Online, Feb 17, 2018

Beall, Pat. “State Attorney Dave Aronberg testifies before house panel on opioids,” Palm Beach Post, December 12, 2017.

Segal, David. “A Doctor with a Phone and a Mission,” The New York Times, December 27, 2017.

Chasing Heroin,” Frontline, Season 34 Episode 6, PBS, 2016.

Dying for Treatment,” Vice Reports, Vice, November 2, 2014.

Koorosh Rassekh is the founder of Evo Health and Wellness, a mental health program in Venice, California, that respects where you are and where you want to go. Evo specializes in serving clients dealing with problematic substance use and other addictions.