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

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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?”

In our most vulnerable states, we instinctively isolate ourselves, grabbing our phones, computers, and tablets and running 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 meDrug rehabDrug detox near meTop rehab centersHeroin detox treatment near meDetox from drugs treatment centers

And the list goes on.

The first listings that you 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, promising the best drug detox treatment for 30 days, hoping 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, those rehabs at the top of the search list 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.For example, the term “drug rehab locations” cost $187 minimum per click for 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. When it comes to for-profit treatment, it’s easy to understand why it’s left a bitter taste in people’s mouths.

Besides Google taking a stand against shady rehab advertisements online, I think 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.

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 new, sustainable lifestyles.

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 shouldn’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.


Gloria Zhu is the Head of Marketing at Workit Health. She 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.

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