I’ve been sober a little over 13 years and focused pretty much entirely on addiction and recovery in my work for the past decade. I tell you this not to brag—trust me, anyone who’s seen how well I’ve handled myself at times in my sobriety would assure you that I’m no one to be bragging about my behavior—but just to say that over this period of time, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also seen a great many lists of, allegedly, the world’s best treatment centers. They often read to me like much of the mainstream work on addiction and recovery: as if a journalist who knows nothing about treatment beyond the fact that some are pricey and Charlie Sheen has been to a lot of them was assigned a story.
What’s frightening to me about this is that panicked, heartbroken, desperate families are using these lists as valid information about where they should send their loved ones. Sometimes these places offer a “cure” for alcoholism. Sometimes they discharge addicts who are on Suboxone, telling these people that they’re sober when in fact they’re on addictive opiates. Sometimes they even teach moderate drinking or a way to get off drugs but continue drinking. These facilities may tell themselves they’re doing good but the fact is that methods like these, for alcoholics and addicts, can mean either death or a lifetime enslaved by addiction (which can be worse).
Of course there are different categories that various addicts belong to, depending on a number of factors. Below is the list of places where I would send my own loved ones if they needed treatment, divided into the following categories: mid-tier, low price point, depression/co-occurring disorders, adolescent and high-end/luxury. They’re all in Southern California because Southern California is the hub of treatment for addicts and alcoholics. (As it turns out, Los Angeles—a city that both attracts addicts and where addiction can thrive—is also the ideal place to clean up.)
4) Clare Foundation (low price point): $2,000
If finances are truly an issue, Clare is a no-brainer. Founded in 1970 out of concern for the homeless alcoholics that were clustered around the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, this nonprofit now has 11 different programs in several Westside locations. Detox and primary care last for 30 days but plenty of residents then transfer to either the Men’s Recovery Home (70 beds) or the Women’s Treatment Program (40 beds).
3) Sunset Malibu (depression/co-occurring disorders): $53,000 (semi-private room); $68,000 (private room)
For those who are addicted but also suffering from depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, eating disorders or other serious mental health issues, Sunset Malibu is the spot. The focus is on changing core beliefs through one-on-one therapy and psychiatry while also integrating the holistic side of things with acupuncture, yoga, massage and much, much more. Many treatment centers falsely claim to be able to handle those with co-occurring disorders while really just treating addiction and hoping the so-called outside issues sort out on their own. Sunset Malibu takes the polar opposite approach. (They also offer a mid-tier drug and alcohol treatment option for $30,000 a month.)
2) Visions (adolescent): $40,500 (45-day stay minimum)
For the teenager who’s destroying the family, there’s no better spot than Visions, which focuses on treatment for those between the ages of 13 and 18. All residents are paired with a psychiatrist, licensed mental health primary therapist and counselor and in addition to residential treatment, Visions also offers outpatient, day school, sober living and a life skill-teaching program called Launch. For the teen that will not be able to recover while in treatment with adults, there’s no place better than Visions.
1) Cliffside Malibu (high-end luxury treatment): $58,000 (semi-private room); $73,000 (private room)
Those that have to have the finest of everything go to Cliffside Malibu—which creates custom treatment plans for each client and has the sort of accommodations that might have you considering the Ritz comparatively shabby. No luxury is spared—clients meet with their therapists every other day for intensive psychotherapy while rounding out treatment with yoga, massage, acupuncture and equine therapy. They also offer the sort of guarantee that can’t be beat: if you leave when they say you can but relapse within the year, you can come back for free. Chances are that if you’ve heard a celebrity went to rehab but never found out where, they went to Cliffside Malibu.