A black man on a laptop using Google

Google just made it tough for rehabs to advertise on Adwords. Here’s why we’re cool with it.

Fact Checked and Peer Reviewed

On September 14, Google officially announced that it will stop accepting ads for rehab centers. Here at Workit, we firmly support Google’s decision to kill all shady rehab center ads.

Why? Simply put, we are NOT a rehab.

It’s easy to lump all addiction care into one giant word these days: REHAB. Celebrities and the media are using it so much that it’s become the go-to word for anything treatment related. Is it really a surprise that in some social groups (*cough cough* Hollywood *cough*), it’s now even a status symbol to have gone to rehab? In reality, how many of us really know what goes on behind locked doors at these expensive, exclusive centers that promise “first-class settings” and “the finest recovery experience?”

Many of us start our search in search engines.

At our most vulnerable, we instinctively isolate ourselves. We grab our phones, computers, and tablets, and run towards Google for answers. Google has become our default therapist, our Magic 8 Ball, and our keeper of search history secrets. We frantically type, click, type, back click, type again for answers in dark hours of need.

Best drug rehab near me Drug rehab Drug detox near me Top rehab centers Heroin detox treatment near me Detox from drugs treatment centers

And the list goes on.

The first results that we used to see were all labeled with the tiny blue words, “Ad.” Ah, relief! Finally, just what you were looking for … Or was it? You click on the first link. It promises the best drug detox treatment for 30 days. You hope that you’ll finally get the help you need. And maybe you do, or maybe you don’t. The rest isn’t based on science, success rates, or best business practices.

The reality is, the rehabs at the top of the search results weren’t the most successful. They just paid Google the most.

Here’s how it works:

One patient, on average, spends around $40,000 per month in a rehab facility. Businesses purchase Google ads to try to snag that money. For example, the term “drug rehab locations” costs a minimum of $187 per click on the ads that appear when you search that term. Let’s say 10 people click on the ad link for a rehab, and 1 person becomes a patient. That means, the rehab would have spent $1,870 on the ad, but made a profit of over $38,000.

That’s just the beginning. Some rehabs reportedly spend $1 million per month just on these Google ads. That’s when we start asking the real question: how much money are these rehabs actually making, to make it rain advertising dollars like this?

“Some rehabs reportedly spend $1 million per month just on these Google ads. That’s when we start asking the real question: how much money are these rehabs actually making, to make it rain advertising dollars like this? ”

I’m going cross-eyed just trying to do those calculations. It’s easy to understand why for-profit treatment has left a bitter taste in people’s mouths.

We’re glad Google is taking a stand against shady rehab advertisements online. But it’s safe to say there are other ways to truly help people get the treatment they need:

1. Transparency in pricing. Have you ever looked at a treatment bill and went ‘WTF is a Level 4 visit and why did it just cost me $300?” Or how about those weird fees that are attached to the end? Treatment centers often bank on the confusion of patients and their families, in hopes that patients will just pay without asking any questions.

2. Science-backed programs. For too long, many inpatient, extensive (and expensive!) treatment centers have relied upon aggressive, in your face treatment styles that have little or no evidence backing them up. Reporter Zachary Siegel (an addict himself) has a great article on many rehabs rely on methods that are unproven and often ineffective.

3. Ongoing support. Thirty days, then what? Rehab often whisks you from your current reality for a month, then places you right back into your old problems. And real life. Why is this a problem? Because recovery needs to be ongoing, adaptable, and practical. This means that you need to be able to receive support day-to-day, as you’re working at your job, taking care of your kids, and living at home. Rehab as an escape can sometimes come as a relief, but treatment needs to become fully integrated into your life and needs to help you build a new, sustainable lifestyle.

4. Community involvement. More and more research is showing that opiate addiction, especially, stems from a lack of connection. When you’re away from your home for thirty days to dry out, you’re not building healthy new connections in your local community. Our communities are full of vital resources. Making use of them and creating a healthy, thriving social network is key to recovery.

The bottom line is, the best treatment option for you can’t be determined by how much advertising money a treatment organization can spend. With Google taking a stand on listing theft against shady rehabs, we—collectively as an internet dwelling society—can finally get the addiction treatment and healing that we deserve.


A future free of addiction is in your hands.

Recover from addiction at home with medication, community, and support—from the leader in virtual addiction care.

Gloria Zhu has a long track record of success in brand building and marketing for innovative companies, across various industries. Being a true believer of healing through self-discovery and positive self-talk, she loves spreading the message of compassion and recovery through Workit Health’s mission.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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