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.
VICE editor Wilbert L. Cooper traveled to Southern California, the region with the highest concentration of these high-end rehab clinics, to explore the peculiar and troubling side of the for-profit addiction treatment industry.
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