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Negligent addiction treatment may lead to malpractice lawsuit

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

When a friend or loved one struggles with addiction, New York residents are often urged to get help. However, not all addiction treatment programs are created equal. It is all too common for individuals and their families to spend tens of thousands of dollars on addiction treatment, only to find that the former user relapses and goes back to an addictive lifestyle.

Relapse is sometimes mistakenly attributed to a character defect; many people fail to place some of the blame on the addiction treatment program. A study that was published last year suggests that in some cases, addiction relapse may be the result of medical malpractice. This is because, according to the study’s authors, many addiction treatment centers are not basing their treatment methods on science or medical evidence.

The study was published by the Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and it found that many addiction treatment programs use outdated or unscientific methods.

A book that was recently published on the subject titled “Inside Rehab” suggests that many of these centers are founded on myths regarding treatment methods. Studies show that the most important things to avoid relapse are seeing an individual counselor and attending a self-help group regularly. These should be ongoing and represent a lifetime commitment rather than the typical 30-day stint in an inpatient rehab facility.

The 30-day stint might promise miracles, but true change happens over a lifetime.
When seeking programs to treat loved ones’ addiction, it is important to know what to look for. Centers that utilize research-validated techniques, and are recommended by medical professionals who are not associated with the facilities, may be more promising.

Whether an addiction relapse can be considered medical malpractice is very complicated and depends on the circumstances of a case. In general, medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider provides substandard treatment, that which falls below the industry standard.

Those who have sunk lots of money into an ineffective treatment program that provided negligent care may be wise to discuss their case with a medical malpractice attorney to learn whether a legal claim is available to recover compensation for damages.

Source: The New York Times, “Effective Addiction Treatment,” Jane E. Brody, Feb. 4, 2013

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