Pawning Your Stuff To Pay for Addiction Treatment

What are you willing to do to get well?

It’s a clarifying and motivational question we often ask those struggling with addiction when the excuses start. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, what steps are you willing to take and what mountains will you scale in order to create a path to recovery?

While the barriers are often psychological and closely aligned with the disease, sometimes finances come into play. Here in New York, we are lucky to have a continuum of addiction treatment where regardless of your ability to pay, you can get some of the best treatment in the world. In fact, addiction treatment is one of the few services you can buy where there is little relationship between price and quality. Some of the most expensive addiction treatment in the country is among the worst and care that’s free or supported by Medicaid can be among the best. Expensive treatment facilities will give you 1000-thread count sheets, a personal chef and pony rides on the beach, but they often lack properly credentialed staff and are clueless about evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Addiction treatment and spa vacations are two different things.

Still, so-called luxury rehabs market themselves aggressively and are happy to help you figure out innovative ways for paying for treatment stays that can top $100,000 per month. One treatment lead collection website called AddictionCenter.com includes information about accessing health insurance benefits, and also suggests setting up a GoFundMe campaign to support your treatment stint. That’s all fine, but they also suggest pawning your stuff in order to pay for treatment.

Now, there’s a part of that makes perfect sense. After all, your life is at stake. But most folks who have struggled with addiction have already sold most of their stuff and are we really living in age where we’re collecting Dad’s watch so his kid can get well?  It’s distasteful at best and puts addiction treatment centers in the same circle with heroin dealers and pawn brokers.

Another website – MyTreatmentLender.com boasts that they’ve “partnered with some of the nation’s top lenders to offer loans for treatment, financing for rehab, loans for substance abuse treatment, eating disorder treatment financing and other behavioral health financing.” One link contains an application for what’s called a car title loan, where you are pawning the title to your car and putting your vehicle at risk for repossession. The Federal Trade Commission warns against auto title loans saying, “Lenders often charge an average of 25 percent per month to finance the loan. That translates to an APR of at least 300 percent. It could be higher, depending on additional fees that the lenders may require. For example, if you borrow $500 for 30 days, you could have to pay, on average, $125 plus the original $500 loan amount — $625 plus additional fees — within 30 days of taking out the loan.”

Medical loans are fairly common and god knows that people take out personal loans for things far less worthwhile, but in the midst of a national opioid crisis, it seems like some opportunists are looking for a windfall.

Here’s the bottom line: if you are looking for treatment nationwide, avoid spammy addiction treatment websites featuring fake reviews and promotional content and instead use the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Locator. If you are in New York State, the New York OASAS website lists licensed treatment facilities and via their toll-free HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY.