When an individual or loved one comes to the point of seeking treatment for addiction or alcoholism, it can be overwhelming. Typically, this occurs during a crisis, and the individuals, family members, or friends choosing a treatment center often don’t know what they should be looking for, much less the best ways to choose a rehab for the individual suffering.


Most people immediately turn to the internet or Google to find a treatment center or treatment provider. While this is now how society typically operates when searching for anything, going online is one of the worst ways to choose a rehab. That being said, it is how most people find treatment now, so it is important to equip people with what they should avoid when searching for treatment.


First, let us offer a couple suggestions before offering some warning signs or red flags when selecting an addiction treatment center or rehab. The first suggestion is, do not go about this alone. Do not keep it secret, because anyone is ashamed or doesn’t want anyone else to know that you or a loved one is in need of treatment. Addiction is a chronic illness and a medical issue. Do not let stigma or shame keep the issue quiet. You would be shocked to learn of how many people or families you know that have dealt with this same issue. The second suggestion supports the first- rather than going about this alone, seek counsel or professional help. This allows you important support through the process of selecting a rehab, as well as working with a professional that can help you vet different treatment options and choose a rehab. An individual suffering from addiction or their family truly will not be able to figure out the clinical needs of the person in need of treatment, what type of treatment will best fit that person’s clinical needs, and therefore selecting which treatment center is the best fit to help them overcome addiction and begin a journey of recovery. Talk to other people that may have gone through similar situations. Engage the help of a professional, whether that is a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, or interventionist. This professional will help support everyone through the process and help choose the best treatment option. A final suggestion is, before choosing a rehab, go get a clinical evaluation or assessment from a clinical professional. This will allow the issues the individual is having to come to light and give a better understanding of what their clinical needs are, therefore helping to narrow the search of which best rehab fits their needs.


However, if you or your loved one decides to go online to find a rehab or treatment center on your own, which again is not advisable, there are some things to consider and red flags to notice from a facility.


Addiction Treatment Center Red Flags


Staff on website?

A quick way to check for red flags at a rehab is the staff page. Is there staff listed? Does it offer full names? Photos? Licenses and/or certifications? Is there a bio with experience? You want to see who the team of professionals is that is treating you or your loved one, and what their experience is in doing so. If these things aren’t present on the website, it’s a major red flag.



When calling a facility, who you are speaking with, and that facility’s process of admission is important. Ask who the person you are speaking with is and where they are located. Avoid call centers. These typically are either not onsite at the facility or are not actually part of the treatment center and rather a call center hired by the treatment center.  Call centers often work with multiple rehabs and cannot truly speak to the treatment being delivered at a facility. Ask who the person you are speaking to is- are they a professional and employee of that treatment center or simply a hired call center worker? Ask if they are licensed or credentialed. Ask about the admissions process- are they just looking to find out about what insurance you or your loved one may have, or are they actually asking questions to try to find out what is going on? Avoid places that are only focused on insurance or financials and are not collecting important and relative clinical information. It should also be noticed if the person on the call isn’t a licensed or certified professional, are they bringing the clinical information to a clinical director or medical director (or someone similar) that can make the clinical determination if that rehab is the right clinical fit to meet you or your loved one’s needs.



A major red flag is any rehab that is too focused on cost or insurance. Now, treatment is not a small decision and can often be an important financial decision, unfortunately. However, a red flag can be a rehab that is either too focused on insurance or cost, willing to waive any out-of-pocket costs, or is somewhat sketchy regarding what the cost for treatment will be. Remember, even if you are choosing a treatment center in-network with your insurance, there often will be some out-of-pocket costs to treatment. Legally, rehabs must collect deductibles and often times, depending on the specific insurance plan, other costs. A red flag could be a treatment center immediately waiving any out-of-pocket costs. More specifically, a treatment center should be able to provide to you or your loved one clarity regarding what the cost for treatment will be, including providing that break down in writing. Treatment can often be an expensive proposition for families, so they should be able to know, before admission, what the cost of treatment will be. If they cannot or will not, that is a major red flag.


Availability to speak to staff and/or alumni

Often, a rehab will be happy to provide you, your loved one, or a professional referent to ability to connect with someone at the rehab outside of admissions. Perhaps it’s a therapist, a doctor, or another specific member of the staff. Other times, it might be an alumnus of the program or an alumni family who had their loved one go through the program. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about that rehab, what other’s experiences were like, and what you or your loved one’s experience may be if you choose that program. Treatment centers will often be more than happy to provide those contacts. If they don’t, or if they block you when you ask to speak to someone else, that is a red flag. Move on.


Does the website accurately reflect the environment?

A quick and easy red flag is a treatment center that is inaccurately offering an understanding of the treatment environment. This could be a website full of stock photos, or that only offers generic clinical terms used as buzzwords to attract patients or help with their website SEO rankings. You want to make sure that a treatment center’s website is showing the actual treatment center, isn’t full of generic stock images of staff or of the facility and is actually describing the treatment that will be delivered. Does the website say something like “evidence-based treatment” or “person-centered care”, but doesn’t then go on to describe that care? Does it list types of therapy, but then does not go on to explain how those therapeutic approaches are delivered within a clinical philosophy? Red flags include stock imagery without including actual photos of staff or facility, long lists of therapy buzzwords, or drop downs that simply lists types of drugs or alcohol without much explanation.


Can the rehab treat co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis?

Most patients that enter a rehab have some level of dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder that is taking place alongside a substance use disorder. Often it is a co-occurring mental health disorder, but it could also be a behavioral disorder. Therefore, any treatment center or rehab you call should have the ability to treat you or your loved one’s addiction alongside any co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. This can be done through programming and/or by the use of appropriate professionals on staff, including psychiatrists and licensed master’s level mental health therapists and counselors. Most, if not all rehabs will say on the phone or website that they treat co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis but ask questions to make sure this is a true statement.



This relates to admissions. Some of the clearest rehab red flags refer to enticements to get someone to come to treatment. That can include things like waiving deductibles or other costs for treatment, or by offering to pay for transportation to get someone to rehab. This is illegal. Any type of enticement or patient inducement is a major red flag. No rehab should be offering a potential patient anything of value that will sway their decision into choosing that specific rehab that undermines their decision-making that prioritizes that patient’s best interests and clinical healthcare need.


Quality Assurance

This may be the least important, but it should be noted to look for the good housekeeping seals of approvals that exist in behavioral healthcare and addiction treatment. This would be things like making sure the treatment center is licensed appropriately and that the license is in good standing with the state licensing board where the rehab is located. It would include being accredited by one of the national accreditation bodies, most often The Joint Commissions and/or CARF (the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.) This would also include having membership in NAATP, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. It is important to recognize that being nationally accredited or a member of NAATP does not automatically mean that a rehab or addiction treatment center operates ethically and doesn’t have rehab red flags. However, it can be a red flag if a rehab is not nationally accredited and not a member of NAATP.


Choosing an addiction treatment center is difficult, and if you or a loved one is potentially in need of rehab, the first and foremost suggestion is to not choose care through Google and the internet, but rather engage the help and skills of a professional that can help be a guide for you and your family. However, if you do choose a treatment center through Google, the suggestions and information above can help vet some of the options, and hopefully weed out some of the obvious red flags that may exist.  The list above is by no means a catch all, and it is always important to ask questions, get a comfort level with a facility, and trust your gut. Treatment is not easy, so if a facility seems too good to be true, it usually means it is. If a facility is telling you everything you want to hear, be skeptical and keep digging. Every person who suffers from addiction, while similar, have different clinical needs that must be met to ensure treatment is the best investment. Treatment works and recovery is possible, but treatment works effectively, and recovery becomes probable when an individual or family engage in the most clinically appropriate rehab that will meet the individual and family needs of the patient or client.


If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at info@marylandaddictionrecovery.com. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.