Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Oliver shows how sketchy rehabs can be about as useful as "pissing money up a fucking wall"

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Screenshot: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

After a brief up-front recap of the week in Trump administration lunacy—congrats, John Bolton, for being so hair-trigger irresponsible that Donald-fucking-Trump had to walk back your latest foreign policy blunder—John Oliver spent most of this week’s Last Week Tonight exposing yet another shady, scam-happy group. In his piece on the shockingly under-regulated rehab industry, Oliver did his signature exploration of the depths to which certain unscrupulous people will plunge in the quest for an ill-gained buck at the expense of people in real, desperate need.

There’s the fact that, in many states, there are simply no licensing requirements to open a treatment center whatsoever. (Oliver notes that, in Florida, O.J. Simpson could open one tomorrow, which would naturally be called “The Juice Cleanse.”) Or the fact that the lucrative, insurance-reimbursed urine-testing industry (where patients’ pee is referred to as “liquid gold”) makes rehab, for some, an endless exercise in whizzing. And then there’s the the no-joke practice of a Florida rehab center sending employees out cruising the streets, asking random, desperate-looking people if they have the necessary insurance. Throughout, the notoriously hard to shock Oliver just kept turning over rocks and goggling at what he regarded as the the squirmy grifters underneath.


People like Richard Tate, the owner of Cliffside Malibu, whose defensive rhetoric about his swanky, expensive, celebrity-courting rehabilitation clinic conveniently omits the fact that he also owns the two leading rehab-ranking websites (RehabReviews.com and TheFix.com) that, purely coincidentally, give Cliffside Malibu glowing reviews. Or the father-son proprietors of the equally tony California rehab retreat Passages, who smugly tell a reporter that every single person who’s ever gone through their program is 100 percent cured. “Bullshit!,” cried Oliver.

As Oliver stresses throughout, addiction is a wrenching, complicated disease, whose treatment entails a whole lot more than the equine therapy, sunrise yoga, and rosy, evidence-free promises featured so heavily in these private facilities’ advertising. Springing the late reveal that a funny former rehab client featured in his report (profanely shutting down that whole equine therapy thing) is dead, and that even President Obama’s former deputy drug czar was unable to navigate the unregulated, predatory system to find treatment when his own son became addicted (and who died, too), Oliver steered people in actual need to a website where people seeking help will be referred to actual, board-certified doctors in addiction medicine. They’re unlikely to have you pet horses, but, as Oliver notes, they’ll also actually have your—and not their—best interests in mind.