Kicking People out of Drug Addiction Programs – A Travesty!

Kicking%20ImageMy son was recently kicked out of a drug treatment program.  I can’t tell you how long and hard we had to work to even get him into the program.  But only two months after entering, they kicked him out, apparently for a relapse.

He begged them not to kick him out. “Give me any other kind of punishment to make me pay for my relapse, but please don’t kick me out!”

But out he went. He had no place to go, and the shame and fear and depression of having been kicked out overwhelmed him and he went downhill, losing his job. Soon he was living on the streets again.

They said he could come back in a week–if he tested clean!  How crazy is that!

By then he’d had two overdoses. Finally he was arrested–thank God!  He’s “safe” for a little while longer.

But I am so angry at those who claim to provide drug addiction “treatment.”  How could they do this to him? They kick him out for having the very condition he went there to get help for?

I don’t understand this system of “treatment.” They were supposed to treat his addiction, not kick him out for being being an addict! If he hadn’t wanted to be there, I could understand that. Maybe. But when he was still desperate to recover, when he still wanted “treatment,” how could they do that?

Am I crazy to think this was wrong???

I don’t think so.

Here’s a great article at on this very point, “Stop Kicking People Out of Addiction Programs.”

18% (288,000) of all persons admitted to specialized addiction treatment in the U.S. were administratively discharged (“kicked out”) prior to treatment completion.  Those persons whose treatment was terminated in this manner were often those with the most severe and complex addictions and the least natural recovery support resources–in short, those most in need of professional treatment.

The most frequent cause for administrative discharge (AD) over the past half century has been continued use of alcohol or other drugs during treatment in spite of threatened consequences, e.g., the central symptom of the disorder.  In our 2005 article, we argued that AD practices were flawed on both theoretical and practical grounds.

They go on to say:

AD practices in addiction treatment are unprecedented in the health care system.  For other chronic health care problems, symptom manifestation during treatment confirms or disconfirms the working diagnosis and provides feedback on the degree of effectiveness of the treatment methods being used.  In marked contrast, symptom manifestation in the addictions field results in blaming and expelling the patient.  It is contradictory to argue that addiction is a primary health care problem while we continue to treat its symptoms as bad behavior warranting punishment.

Expelling a client from addiction treatment for AOD use–a process that often involves thrusting the client back into drug-saturated social environments without provision for alternate care–makes as little sense as suspending adolescents from high school as a punishment for truancy.

The strategy should not be to destroy the last connecting tissue between the individual and pro-recovery social networks, but to further disengage the person from the culture of addiction and to work through the physiological, emotional, behavioral and characterological obstacles to recovery initiation, engagement, and maintenance.

You can read the rest of this excellent article HERE

This was not the first time my son was kicked out of a rehab or sober living home for relapse, and sometimes just for minor infractions, missing meetings, etc.  I understand the need for consequences for “bad behavior,” and the need to protect others in the program. But there’s got to be a better way to work through these set-backs than throwing them out on the street.

No wonder jails and prisons have become revolving doors for addicts.

I realize now that my sense of hopelessness for my son rests mostly on the fact that there is no real help out there for him, for the chronic addict. There is no structured, systematic support and treatment program for addicts, period.

And most of what is available–the sketchy, seriously flawed programs–are either too expensive, or have long, waiting lists for beds, or require patients to subscribe to a particular religion.

I feel like we live in the dark ages when it comes to treating drug addition. Everyone recognizes that addiction is a major health epidemic, and a national tragedy. But nothing is being done to help those who need it most–the chronic addict.

What’s wrong with us?

15 thoughts on “Kicking People out of Drug Addiction Programs – A Travesty!

  1. Ugh, I’m so sorry, Deborah. Do you mind if I ask if this was this an in patient rehab facility or sober living or was it IOP?


  2. The similarities between your story & mine are thick. What part of the country do you live in? My son was arrested & jailed for the 2nd time too and I know it helped save his life. He is now in an awesome 2 year program. What part of the country do you live in, if you don’t mind me asking?


  3. This is the truest, saddest aspect of addiction treatment we have. I recently read Nic Sheff’s book, We All Fall Down, and parts of it explain how truly horrible some treatment centers are. My old methadone clinic used to kick people off if they tested positive for marijuana. More and more people I know are rejecting the standard recovery options (NA, rehab, methadone, etc.) and are finding their own way out of the darkness. Don’t give up hope yet, there are many people out there who also see these flaws and are fighting to find better ways.


    • I haven’t read Nic’s book, but I read his father’s, and it was powerful. I hope you are right and that more and more people will speak out about the crazy healthcare system when it comes to treating addiction, and how so many fall through the cracks because of those irrational practices.


      • His father’s book is next on my list to buy. As an ex-addict (I know I will always be “an addict,” but I don’t like the term “recovering”. I feel like it puts us down and we never get to rejoice about the progress we’ve made, even if we do end up relapsing) I tend to be very into addiction memoirs, especially as I am attempting to write my own.

        I read Nic’s first book, Tweak, years ago when it first came out and loved it. In my opinion, We All Fall Down wasn’t as good but it did give very good insight as to what the average addict has to deal with and go through, beyond the simple “next fix” mentality. There were many instances when he tried to get help but the system was so corroded, he ended up leaving. At the end he speaks about his father and how he helped to be his wake up call, so to speak.

        I know a lot of people personally who are advocating for better treatment options — mainly the harm-reduction techniques as opposed to simple abstinence and NA. They’ve come a long way, but the have even farther to go, sadly. Higher-ups don’t really want to hear from those of us who have actually been through it, but we’re trying. =]


        • And you are just the people they need to listen to. I am too a recovering addict. We know the territory as we walk through it. Give me a recovering person any day beyond a so called professional expert. many of these do a lot of damage, in my experience.


      • Oh, also, in We All Fall Down, one of Nic’s main revelations is that he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder but never really got the help he needed for it. Once he found it, it also helped his addiction and he was able to finally start picking up the pieces. I don’t know if your son has been to therapy or if he would even need to, but the majority of addicts also have mental health issues. Often simply knowing what’s going on with yourself and why helps tremendously.


  4. Pingback: Kicking People out of Drug Addiction Programs – A Travesty? | markswanderings

  5. How they can justify doing this is truly beyond me. Addicts are under the grip of a compulsion that is mind bending and as noted often have other mental health issues along side. Sometimes tough love just ends up in a terrible place. My heart goes out to you,


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