'Intervention' Trades Free Treatment for Addicts' Stories

"When someone is [suffering from addiction] we can assume that their judgment is impaired and they're not in their right mind, and they may say or do things that will later come back and haunt them in their later lives," said Andrew Tatarsky, a licensed psychologist and addiction therapist. "Now they've got these public records of things that may hurt their future careers and reputations."

Addicts who appear on "Intervention" are told they are being filmed for a documentary on addiction, said Mettler, and while their families know about the impending intervention and treatment program, the addicts themselves do not.

Whether "Intervention's" method of filming addicts is accepted or not, many medical professionals say that free treatment is still a unique and ultimately helpful opportunity.

Cost Prevents Addicts from Getting Help

In 2006, 23.6 million people showed symptoms of treatable drug or alcohol abuse, but only 2.5 million, or just over 10 percent, actually received treatment, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is published by the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration.

The lack of insurance coverage is one of the major reasons for this disparity, Miller argued.

There are bills currently pending in Congress that would make insurance coverage equal for medical treatment and addiction treatment. Known as "parity legislation," they would bring about major change in helping more addicts get treatment, said Miller, who estimates that the average person could get treated for around $12,000.

Even when insurance companies do cover addiction treatment, there are often lots of loopholes that make the coverage extremely limited, said Carol McDaid, a member of the board of directors of Faces and Voices, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of substance abusers.

"[Some plans] will have a medical necessity criteria, which means the insured will have to be either homicidal or suicidal at the time of the health assessment [to get in-patient coverage at a rehab center]," said McDaid, who is a recovering alcohol and drug addict herself. "Other plans will have a 'fail first' policy, in which the person will have to fail an out-patient program before they will get coverage for an in-patient program."

But long-term in-patient programs aren't always the best treatment, even if you are insured, added addiction therapist Tatarsky.

"There's much too much emphasis on very expensive 30-day rehabs which have a lower success rate," said Tatarsky. "There's this implication that if you go away for 30 days you'll get fixed, but the issues are often much more complex and really require more of an ongoing, deep individual psychotherapy."

Promise of Treatment Hard to Turn Down

Mettler, the show's creator, believes many families decide to apply to "Intervention" because of the promise of free treatment.

Several treatment centers throughout the United States "partner" with the television show and provide what Mettler refers to as "scholarships" to addicts who appear on the show. While the minimum requirement for treatment under the show's guidelines is a 90-day inpatient program, Mettler said that often times rehab centers will even offer to provide additional services at no cost.

Mettler understands the concerns about show participants being branded as addicts. But he said even that can be beneficial.

"It is attractive treatment? Of course," said Mettler. "But the addicts do our show out of altruism -- they truly want to help other people by sharing their stories. They don't want anyone to become like them."

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