Addiction Treatment Marketing Gone Awry

In May 2016, I did some research into TreatmentCalls.com after receiving an unsolicited email.  As part of that research, I made a call to one of their many toll-free lines, inquired about treatment and then wrote a blog post about my experience.

Now fast forward to a recent Saturday when I received a call from an unknown number. I seldom answer those calls, but did this time as I was running around with my kids in the car, which means that the call was on bluetooth/speaker for all to hear. A woman with a thick accent said hello and asked if I was still looking for addiction treatment.

Huh?

I asked her why she thought I might be looking for help. She noted that I had recently (not really) called a hotline looking for treatment. I asked her if this was TreatmentCalls.com and she answered “yes.” I, of course, started to lecture her about the possible implications of a call like this, but she hung-up before I got very far.

Now imagine, in a moment of desperation more than a year ago, I had called for confidential help. Maybe I got help. Maybe I didn’t. But my family’s just been informed that I had or have a problem.

Imagine I was a 17-year-old who called for help and then answered the subsequent call in front of my family or friends.

Imagine I was that kid’s father who answered the phone and until then, knew nothing about a drug problem. Or that person’s spouse.

Suppose that phone had been passed along to surviving family members in the wake of an overdose. That family would have gotten yet another painful reminder of the failed struggle.

All in the name of making a buck.

Because of its stigma and the tenets of basic medicine, addiction treatment has always been centered on the principle of confidentiality. We want consumers to know that when you reach out for help, your information will be held in the strictest confidence and you will be in the driver’s seat. Once you summon-up the courage to make that call, you should be able to do so without the worry of random callbacks or other intrusions.

Addiction treatment isn’t like car sales where you pound nameless, faceless leads into submission as you “work the aged lists” on a quiet summer Saturday morning. Those same tactics that probably don’t work real well when selling cars or timeshares can be downright dangerous when it comes to treatment.