Congress Investigates Addiction Treatment Marketing & Advertising Practices

United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce is the principle committee that the US Congress uses for investigating topics in commerce, public health, and marketplace interests. The main goal of this committee is to ensure public safety in matters of commerce and energy. The Committee on Energy and Commerce is a big deal. They handle everything from food and drug safety to making sure our country has enough oil reserves.

The committee turned it’s attention to the substance abuse industry, in light of the opioid epidemic and drug overdose deaths that are rocking the country. One of the main purposes of this specific committee meeting was investigating marketing and advertising practices in the substance abuse treatment industry. There have been many bad actors in the space, who hide behind nondescript websites, generic hotlines, and utilize other misleading advertising practices to prey upon vulnerable families or addicts.

The Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation has stepped up to the plate to address the marketing of the treatment industry. They initially started a series of investigations in 2017 on the opioid epidemic. The investigation of patient brokering has spurred an ongoing investigation into advertising and marketing tactics used in the treatment industry.
The hearing held by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) Tuesday, July 24th had many big names in the treatment industry. Jason Brian, Founder of Redwood Recovery Solutions and TreatmentCalls.com, Michael Cartwright, Chairman, and CEO of American Addictions Centers , Mark Mishek, president, and CEO of Hazelden Betty Ford. Robert Niznik, CEO of Addiction Recovery Now and Niznik Behavioral Health, and Dr. Kenneth Stoller, the Director of Johns Hopkins’ Broadway Center for Addiction, and Marvin Ventrell, the Executive Director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.

Why Marketing and Advertising Were the Focus

The NAATP made changes to their code of ethics to specify that treatment providers cannot buy or sell leads, to address the fact that many people were being mislead when looking for help. Some less than ethical treatment centers were buying leads from middlemen who had websites that wouldn’t explicitly advertise that they were linked to a specific treatment center. When someone struggling with addiction called for information about treatment, whoever answered the call in the call center, would then sell that lead to whichever treatment center had paid for the call-without any consideration to qualifications, aspects of care, etc. Many third-party referral services operated this way, and their only incentive was to generate as many leads as possible, regardless of patient care.

One of the key points made at the hearing was the statement by Mark Mishek, stating “Most in our field do great work. But to ensure ethical, quality care for all who seek help for addiction, we believe it is time to establish quality standards and a consistent, enforceable regulatory framework for the addiction treatment industry. The stakes – patient safety and public confidence in addiction treatment – are high.” The standards for how the consumer (the parents searching for treatment for a child, a person struggling with substance abuse, or someone in need of treatment) can clearly understand what it is that they are getting when they visit a website seeking treatment.

It is admirable that Congress is finally doing something about misleading advertising practices that are harming people because lack of access to quality treatment is quite literally killing people.

GateHouse Treatment has always prided itself on being a leader in the substance abuse treatment field and adhering to the highest levels of accreditations, certifications, and ethical standards in the substance abuse recovery field. We hope that Congress continues their work in improving the space, increasing the quality of care offered, and more importantly helping increase the access to treatment that so many need.

The Most Important Goal Of the Committee Should Be Increasing Access

We must applaud the Subcommittee of Oversight and Investigation for bringing light to such a crucial aspect of the treatment industry. The real end game is to offer those seeking help for substance use disorders the treatment they desperately need. On average, 115 American dies per day from an opioid overdose. This is one step closer to finding a solution to the opioid crisis, or at least to stop prolonging the abuse.
If you believe you or a loved one may be addicted to opioids read more about the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction. Reach out to us at GateHouse Treatment. Call us at (855) 448-3588, and we can help. You can heal, we can help.

Watch the Full Committee Meeting on Advertising & Marketing in The Substance Abuse Industry