Published on 5th November 2014 by

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In February 2011, Ted Jacques enrolled his son, Brandon, in a rehab that he believed was the “best treatment center money could buy.” Two months later, his son came home in a body bag. VICE reporter Wilbert L. Cooper ventured to California to find out how and why Brandon died. In the process, he uncovered a story that embodies the greed and gross negligence that has become a hallmark of the high-end for-profit rehab industry.

In the United States, more people between the ages of 25 and 64 die of complications from drugs than car crashes. According to a 2009 study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 23.5 million people in this country over the age of 12 need treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, and only 2.6 million of these afflicted individuals actually receive it. In response, drug and alcohol rehab has blossomed in the past three decades into a $35 billion industry with nearly 15,000 facilities across the country. Although non-hospital residential treatment serves only about 10 percent of those in recovery in the US, the exorbitant cost of such care–as high as $75,000 a month–has made it extremely lucrative. And thanks to popular TV shows like Celebrity Rehab, which have installed the luxurious rehabilitation center in the popular consciousness, the national enrollment figures keep growing.

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