Essential Reading from Maia Szalavitz

Why Tough-Love Rehab Won’t Die

Despite decades of research showing the harmfulness of coercive rehab for addiction, these abusive, tough-love programs refuse to go away.

On Wednesday, reported on the phenomenon of “blood cashews,” nuts produced for export in Vietnamese drug-rehabilitation programs where addicts are forced to perform “labor therapy,” such as sewing clothes, making bricks or, most commonly, shelling cashews.

Last Sunday, the New York Timesdescribed Russia’s harsh new treatment camps, where addicts are locked up for as long as a month in “quarantine rooms” to endure withdrawal.

And last week a lawsuit was refiled against a Utah-based school for teens with drug or behavioral problems, with 350 former students alleging that the school engaged in abusive disciplinary tactics like locking students in outdoor dog cages overnight.

Yet, to date, there has been no evidence that the use of forced labor, public humiliation or generally brutal confrontation has ever been effective in rehabilitating people with drug problems — or any other kind of problem, for that matter. What’s more, when tough-love approaches are compared directly with kinder treatment alternatives for addiction, the studies find that compassionate strategies win by a large margin.

Read the whole thing…




  • Gene

    The grandaddy of all tough-love treatments, in the USA at least, is or was an orgnisation called SYNANON. Now there was a real cult, unlike AA , which I do not beleive is a cult, despite my deep criticisms of it.


  • WWASP would give Synanon a run for their money. That’s why Anonymous is after them

  • AA was a bad enough cult for me. I saw even back then that if I’d gone through a treatment center or (what i see now of) one of these “troubled teen” things, I might have chosen a “permanent solution to a temporary situation” or something similar.

    Oh, and click on Wayne’s name to read his online book about his experiences decades ago at one of these places that finally, recently got shut down, Elan School. I’ve read the first couple of chapters, but I’ve kind of bailed on it – it’s pretty hard to read about such abuse.

  • ez

    “Tough, boot-camp-style addiction treatment programs, on the other hand, are profitable. Staff members are primarily low-educated former addicts, who are usually paid little or nothing, since “giving back” can be framed as essential to their own recovery. Their training consists of being treated ”

    Seemingly she forgot to add that many are power tripping mind fuckers as well.