Life Dripping Away: Making Billions from Suffering Addicts

I have to speak out.

I minister at an inpatient detox facility
I minister at an inpatient detox facility
On my weekly teaching visits to our local detox facility, I see the faces behind the numbers that the “intelligentsia” of addiction services bandies back and forth. To me, the numbers have their use, but the suffering of the people matters so much more. I’ve seen many sick things ministering to addicts, but one of the sickest I have discovered is the insidious “fix”; the false premise, and false promise of addiction replacement therapy.

Heroin - The next thing after the Pill Mill bust
Heroin – Next after the Pill Mill bust
With the ebb of “pill mill” pain-management clinics, the epidemic of cheap, easy-to-find heroin has grown to staggering proportions to replace the pain pills. Most Americans discover the crisis of heroin after it has snuck into the home with a loved-one. Families and addicts are almost always unprepared and unequipped to deal with their loved-one’s addiction; they want the simplest, quickest, easiest “fix” to the problem. To understand the problem of addiction replacement therapy, you have to learn some of (1) the nature of addiction, and (2) the history of treating addiction.

From young and experimental to addict
From young and experimental to addict
After an injury, or as school-aged rebellion, an hereditary addict gets “turned on” to the chemical that will activate their latent, inherited addiction. While it may start as legitimate pain-control, or the independent assertiveness of youth, drug seeking turns into addiction; too often ending up in cheap, life-threatening heroin addiction. Here are some statistics:

• National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), estimated 20 million Americans aged 12 or older used an illegal drug in the past 30 days. This estimate represents 8% percent of the population.*

• Abuse of prescription drugs is growing, with an estimated 48 million people ages 12 and older using for non-medical reasons; approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population.*

• The statistics are staggeringly clear: individuals with a drug dependence diagnosis die on average 22.5 years earlier than those without such a diagnosis. **

The trap is never unsprung
The trap is never unsprung
The trap of addiction gets baited for three reasons: denial and shame and disbelief.  The addict disbelieves they will get hooked, they become ashamed when they discover they are, and they deny to themselves and their family that they are trapped.  Once the trap is sprung, it will never be “unsprung”. Heredity is a prominent risk-factor. Once you add enough chemical over enough time, the trap has the addict for life. This is where the sickness of the Recovery Industry comes into play. Let’s look at some of the players:


  1. Narcotics Anonymous. AA’s younger offspring NA is abstinence-centered, using a framework of 12 proven steps, and a network of fellow recovering addicts. Celebrate Recovery (CR) is an openly Christ-centered 12-step that is similar to NA.11 rehab group
  2. Detox & 28-day treatment centers. Depending on the addict’s affluence, these are available for short 4-5 detoxification to 28-day detoxifying spa vacations.  Often these centers have little after-care follow-up.  Relapse without after-care is very common.
    Methadone - Suboxone are Replacement Drugs
    Methadone – Suboxone are Replacement Drugs
  3. Opiate/Heroin Replacement clinics. This is switching from one addictive opiate to another. The extreme dysfunction caused by heroin or high-dose opiates is replaced with duller, less dysfunctional existence. The common drugs are Subutex, Suboxone, and Methadone, all of which are opiates and all of which are addictive. The addict goes from buying street drugs to a controlled dosage from a clinic.
    Hebron Colony - Boone, NC. Christ-Centered
    Hebron Colony – Boone, NC. Christ-Centered
  4. Religious programs. Some are great, others are sketchy. Narconon and the Church of Scientology looked sketchy in an expose’ in HBO’s “Going Clear”. But, there are also some very reputable faith-based groups that have a dedicated program combining extended in-residence and after-care elements. These are predominantly abstinence-based long-term programs vary in length from 30-days to as much as a year.
    Christian counselor specializing in addiction
    Christian counselor specializing in addiction
  5. Integrative faith-based recovery. Christian counselors guide the addict through a dedicated program counseling, out-sourced medical detox, 12-steps, and extended in-patient and after-care elements. With the exception of the medical detox, these programs are abstinence-based.  >>This is the best I have found.<<

1 follow the money

Here is where the sickness comes in. Let’s follow the money:

  • Local 12-step programs. CR, and NA can be attended for as little as the cost of a book. There is no need for insurance to pay, and there aren’t too many recent studies attesting to the success rates of the anonymous programs. No one makes any money off of these programs, so they often serve as a punching-bag for providers who are funded: the better funded the program, the more abuse they visit on the lower-funded ones.
  • Faith-based programs are usually the lowest-cost of the paid programs, and insurance plans usually don’t cover them. These are abstinence based. Reformers Unanimous, has a 1-year, low-cost program with intensive focus on the Bible and on self-discipline, integrating with local church RU groups for after-care. Hebron Colony/Grace Home in the Carolinas offers a 70-day no-cost program that is completely donor-based.
  • Detox / 28-day programs. Inpatient short-term detox, depending on drug of choice, can be from 4-days to 2-weeks long, and is done in a hospital or inpatient-clinic setting. These are often from $5000 – $20,000, depending on the services needed, and many insurance plans will cover all or part of the cost. 28-day programs can be from $15,000 – $50,000 or more, with a wide range of optional services. Some programs are very clinical. Others can be very posh country-club spa vacation settings.
  • Pharmaceutical replacement therapy. Suboxone (buprenorphine) is a sublingual film made by UK manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser Group. The actual cost to the patient is about $500 per month for the medication plus the cost of doctor’s visits. One should also consider that employability in drug-screening workplaces makes finding work difficult. Methadone is a different chemical compound, but users struggle similar problems to Suboxone.

1 SuboxoneReplacement “step-off” detox with Suboxone is useful.  But the more-common replacement therapy is not really a recovery; just switching one addiction for another. About 1/3 of the addicts I meet are former heroin addicts that were clinically addicted to replacement opiates by their doctor. There is no freedom, and relapses back to heroin are very common. Far too many later die of overdose, either Suboxone or heroin.

Reckitt Benkiser in SloughFollowing the money, it’s obvious where the profits are. The treatments that are free will suffer being the punching bag of the well-funded, and none are better funded than Rickitt Beneckiser. Recent media treatment of an apparent spokesman for Suboxone highlights how insidious the pharmaceutical company is.

Article "Dying To Be Free"
Article “Dying To Be Free”
Jason Cherkis of the Huffington Post did a recent article “Dying to Be Free” featuring Suboxone that was praised by a mixed group of media elites as the quintessential treatment for addiction. Introducing Cherkis for an interview about the article on National Public Radio, host Dave Davies tees-up an emotional plea for “the addicts”. ***1 fresh_air

“Jason Cherkis, welcome to FRESH AIR. Give us a sense of how long you worked on this project and how many grieving families you met and spoke to.

Cherkis shares a tragic story of the heroin addict that died because of the abstinence based 12-step program, and because he victim didn’t take Suboxone.

“He could quote The Big Book from memory to his mother at the dinner table. But at the end of the week he wasn’t doing so well and he relapsed and that relapse ended up being fatal. He overdosed on a Saturday – four days after leaving drug treatment.”

Later, Cherkis is asked his opinion of 12-step treatment, and he accuses

“It’s sort of a common theme among most abstinence-based treatments, this idea that we’re going to police each other; that we’re going to, you know, call each other out when we’re not doing well. And I found it to be kind of a fairly rough and primitive way to do therapy.”

After a thorough thrashing of abstinence-based programs, Cherkis lands a blow for the profits of Big Pharma,

“…it just makes them feel normal again. They don’t have that sort of hankering for the drug. They don’t have the same withdrawal effects if they’re on Suboxone”

dylanroof1It would have been a huge blow to Rickitt Beneckiser had the media not downplayed that Dylan Roof, accused murderer of the “Charleston 9” at Emanuel AME Church, was on Suboxone. Additionally, the tremendous market for “diverted” Suboxone is going largely unreported. Also, in jails across America, the ease of smuggling the 01 jail stampsublingual strips have made Suboxone the opiate of choice. The miracle drug is actually the next scourge. Why? Once again, follow the money. A recent article in the Village Voice states, ****

Suboxone reached $1.4 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2012… (in all of 2012) doctors wrote 9.3 million prescriptions for buprenorphine. From January to March of this year, they wrote 2.5 million more. A majority were for Suboxone, which controls about 70 percent of the buprenorphine market.

1 Share-Prices-460x250$3-4 billion a year for a drug that is extremely dangerous, it is being abused in the jails and on the streets all over America… and it is an opiate, subbing for an opiate. There is no profit in abstinence-based programs, so Big Pharma is prolonging the addictions of millions who are now suffering. The addict either goes into abstinence recovery, or they die in an opiate addiction.

img-thingWhat’s the Biblical angle? This one is very basic, very simple.

Matthew 7:12 (NLT)
12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:17-20 (NLT)
17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.
18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.
20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Works Cited
****Merlan, Anna. “Is Suboxone a Wonder Drug that Helps Heroin Addicts Get Clean–Or Just Another Way to Stay High?” 10 13, 2013. (accessed 07 13, 2015).
**National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD). “For the Media : Alcohol & Drug Information.” 07 13, 2015. (accessed 07 13, 2015).
***National Public Radio, Terry Goss et al. “New Meds Block Heroin Craving, But Reporter Finds Treatment Centers Don’t Use Them.” 02 04, 2015. (accessed 07 13, 2015).
*Scott, Christy K. et al. “Surviving Drug Addiction: The Effect of Treatment and Abstinence on Mortality.” American Journal of Public Health 101.4, 2011: 737–744. PMC. Web. 13 July 2015.



  1. Suboxone has a detox that is just as bad as heroin’s and does the same damage to your neuralogical identity. If you are willing to be absolutely dependent on something for the rest of your life, this is a perfect solution.

  2. Nicely written, and I pretty much agree with most of you’ve expressed here. Good on you, too, for trying to help. Reducing suffering in this world should be the principle driver of all human activity.

    I do have one question, David. I understand you’re staunchly conservative in your politics, and I assume, therefore, you also thoroughly embrace the extreme-right wing economic thinking of unregulated free markets. I could be wrong here, and if so, I apologise in advance. But if this is generally true, then it is the for-profit healthcare system you have there in the States which has produced a great deal of this problem you’re trying to deal with. For example, in the ten-year period from 1991–92 to 2001–02, addiction to opiate-based painkillers trebled in the U.S., and today twice as many Americans are dependent on or abusing prescription pain relievers as the number of people addicted to cocaine. Opioid overdoses now in fact kill more people than cocaine or heroin. Do you think, therefore, profit should be the central guide in a healthcare system?

    • I’m unqualified to answer your question, John. There seems to be a broad, ranging set of topics presented in the way you teed the question up, but I’ll do my best to offer an opinion… Only an opinion.

      Profit motive has proven to be the most effective productive engine for humanity. It has also proven to be impersonal and cold-blooded.

      Socialism seems and starts out well-meaning, but usually fails because profit motive corrupts it or lack of funding starves it into ineffectiveness.

      Well-regulated capitalism seems the most likely to be successful, but how to pull that off is the big question. It’s a question for someone skilled in that area.

      As for the business part of your question, I don’t mind someone making a profit from selling me a product or service. I admire a decent, well accomplished success. The sprawling corporations that constantly test the pain-threshold of maximized profits are the idolatry the Bible warns against. Profits yes, hurt people no.

      If you read the relatively short Book of Ruth, you’ll see that land-owners were required to leave the corners and edges of their fields unharvested. These were left so the less fortunate could have food at no cost, but they did have to go do the work to be able to eat. This seems to be a decent and honorable thought pattern.

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