Marijuana and other drug users are sentenced to treatment they don’t need on a regular basis.  The private addiction treatment industry thrives on the thousands of “addicts” coerced into treatment by courts. Drug courts frequently give defendants the option to take rehab or prison time. Nearly 300,000 people each year choose drug rehabs over prison when charged with marijuana possession in Canada and the US. Marijuana is not considered an addictive drug (Addiction Myth) so why send people to rehab?

The DEA, PDFA and other anti-drug groups use these statistics to show that marijuana is addictive. From the DEA website:

In 2003, 20 per cent (185,239) of the 919,833 adults admitted to treatment for illegal drug abuse cited marijuana as their primary drug of abuse.

Very few of those sentenced to rehab need or want treatment. In fact the US Department of Health and Human Services admits that 37% of nearly 300,000 people who entered drug treatment for cannabis in 2007 had not reported using the drug in the 30 days previous to their admission (detailed pie chart). The corporations that run addiction treatment facilities like all corporations only care about making money. Many addiction centres have unqualified staff who are members of the program themselves.

Source: 2002 SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).

This graph shows marijuana admissions compared to other drugs. It is clear which ones are addictive (Opiates, Cocaine I’m looking at you). Check out this graph showing the sources of rehab program admission in the US: Pie Chart

For centuries addiction was treated as a demonic possession. It was assumed that addiction was the cause of possession by evil spirits. Treatments included exorcism and trepanation (drilled holes in addicts head to release the demons). It is clear to us now why the evil spirits model was abandoned but the disease model is not much better.

Rehab centres promote the disease model of addiction. This method ignorantly assumes that drug addiction can be treated as an illness. And the illness led people, through no fault of their own, to problematic substance abuse. Through this model blame on the addict is minimized and the importance of medical treatment is emphasized. You don’t here anyone telling an AIDS patient to “Snap out of it” or “Go cold turkey”. Addiction is not caused by bacteria, virus, or genes as real diseases are. Major drawbacks of the disease model include increased risk of relapse and dependence on medical treatments. It is easy to see why the rehab industry likes this model.

One rehab company, Narconon, is actually run by the church of Scientology.  It is basically a recruiting program for the church.  Patients spend from $10,000 to $30,000 and spend 3 to 4 months at Narconon facilities (Sources link1, link2).  Another company Straight inc. used a very aggressive approach to drug rehabilitation. They would continually humilate patients and used brainwashing techniques.  Over 40 suicides have been committed in Straight facilities.  Hundreds of cases of physical, mental and sexual abuse eventually led to Straight Inc going out of business.  From Wikipedia:

The Fairfax, Virginia location was cited and shut down for 76 violations of client’s rights, including, but not limited to educational neglect, sleep, food and water deprivation, unlawful physical restraints, inadequate medical care, lack of trained or qualified staff, and allegations of non-reported sexual and physical abuse that resulted in paid lawsuits to several former clients. Many former patients of Straight have formed ‘survivor groups’ assembling themselves in small numbers seeking a means to understand the trauma suffered and supporting one another in grasping the reality of what happened in their lives.

Several clones of Straight Inc popped up after it was sued out of existence. One such facility Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (AARC) in Calgary, Alberta is still in operation. AARC uses a controversial “tough love” approach which involves humiliation, constant confessions and confrontational therapy. Graduates and near graduates of the AARC program, called “peer councillors”, handle many of the sessions. Internet, TV, reading and calendars are banned. Patients are continually broken down until they admit that they have a disease. All this for $50,000 per year.

One young woman was admitted to AARC and labelled a “stage 4 addict” when she wasn’t addicted to any drugs. She was abused daily and raped once. Rachel escaped after 5 months and later came forward to the media and police. Several former AARC patients have reported physical and sexual abuse. (Article, “Powerless” Documentary)

Drug problems for most of human history have been treated as bad habits similar to chewing your fingernails.  That is really what an addiction is.  Early in the twentieth century beginning in the United States the medical industry stepped in and declared addiction a medical condition.  This gave power and money to medical communities.  Other human troubles have been dragged into the medical realm as well.  Overmedicalization seems to have taken Western society hostage. There are real drug addicts out there who need help; chose your help carefully. Sending people to rehab just to create statistics does not help anyone.