Arizona’s Rise in Rehab Tourism: For Better or Worse?


Making the decision to enter a treatment center for drug or alcohol addiction can be a difficult one, especially if you’re intending to go out of state for treatment. A move to a different location is a common hope for many family and friends of addicted individuals. The idea is that going somewhere that isn’t familiar would help those in recovery focus on their rehabilitation.

The current opioid epidemic in America is sending roughly 2 million people in search of addiction treatment. It’s this epidemic, coupled with the idea that a going someplace new to start fresh is what’s making Arizona one of the premier destinations for those searching for treatment.

Cities, like Phoenixand Prescott, AZ have received an influx of individuals looking for help. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Phoenix has risen to the challenge, providing a variety of resources to those looking to get help. Of course, with new people coming into the state looking for a specific service, there are bound to be a few bad factors involved.

An Influx of Rehab Tourists

It’s common for families of an addicted individual want to place their loved one in a rehab facility somewhere new. Going someplace unfamiliar will bring about a change of pace and help the individual out in their journey to recovery, and Arizona has become quite the destination for addiction treatment.

In fact, Arizona has become so popular, that celebrities have come to the state to seek treatment. Celebrities like Selena Gomez and Harvey Weinstein have come to the state seeking help with everything from alcohol addiction to certain behavioral issues. One such reason that celebrities are arriving is the privacy many of the state facilities provide and the weather, which favors outdoor activity year-round.

In fact, a 2017 survey from the Center of Behavioral Health stated that a little under 42,000 people received some form of treatment in 341 treatment facilities throughout the state, placing Arizona as the 12th highest in the country for the number of patients treated.

The Bad Side of the Coin

Unfortunately, the rise of Arizona’s popularity in drug and alcohol addiction treatment brings about those who would take advantage of the system. While there are definitely treatment centers and sober living homes who care about the people they’re helping and provide beneficial services to those who need it, there are those who provide substandard treatment.

The rise of the opioid epidemic created a need for more drug and alcohol rehab facilities, and with insurance companies footing the bill for rehab services, some saw that there was money to be made. Some began to over charge for urine tests, medications, and treatments like equine therapy.

If the patient doesn’t have insurance, paying out of pocket is an option. Unfortunately, many of the bad actors charge what amounts to a year’s salary for a 30-day stay at a facility. If someone were desperate to get any sort of help available, they’ll pay the hefty cost in hopes of getting better, without realizing the facility their entering has little to no interest in their needs.

Faulty sober living homes are also popping up all over the valley. Sober living homes are places where those who’ve just come out of rehab can live and focus on their sobriety. Unfortunately, as the recovering population blew up, so did the need for places where recovering addicts can stay.

So many sober living homes opened that were unregulated, understaffed, and caused a growing resentment of the local community. Some would just take the money and kick the person out, leaving them to their own devices, susceptible to anyone who offers them false hope.

Another ugly aspect of the booming rehab market is patient brokering. Essentially certain brokers would entice people coming out of 12-step programs or rehab facilities to relapse, and then send them to a rehab facility. When the patient enters the facility, the broker would receive a commission for helping the center recruit a patient.

There’s Still Hope

Whether or not there are some bad apples among the bunch is beside the point. This doesn’t mean that it’s not important, but when it comes to regaining your life from the vice grip of addiction, your focus shouldn’t be on the negatives.You need to focus on what you can do to regain your health.

Arizona is introducing bills that would regulate sober living homes and prohibit rehabs and sober living homes from offering or receiving a commission for recruiting patients.

This has caused many local and state agencies to act and help people and aidcompanies looking to help others. The city of Phoenix recently passed a law that would regulate sober living homes, limiting the bad actor’s ability to take advantage of those in need of help.

Other organizations are taking note of the issues and are stepping up to help those in need. The Arizona Recovery Housing Association, a self-policing agency whose member houses all follow a strict set of rules, has gained prominence in the valley. They provide reliable information on sober houses who provide quality assistance to those in need.

With raising awareness of mental health and the state acting on those who are taking advantage, hope can still be found.

Knowing that Arizona is doing what it can to protect those most vulnerable, getting help and finding hope in the valley is possible.