Making the decision to accept help SHOULD be the most difficult part of getting help for addicts. After all, it’s not easy to move through the stages of change toward getting clean and sober. Unfortunately, once they’ve made the decision to get clean, not all addiction help lines have their callers’ best interests at heart. You would think that calling a number advertised as “addiction help” would connect you to someone who actually works in the mental health field, right? But sometimes those phone numbers don’t connect people to treatment professionals at all. Instead, calls for help land on the ears of third party marketers, who turn around and sell your need for help to the highest bidder. This shady practice ends up with people going to treatment centers that are not necessarily the best fit. So how do you know who answers addiction help lines?

Who Answers Addiction Help Lines?

Possibility #1

Treatment Center

Licensed and accredited addiction treatment centers are bound to operate ethically by the requirements of several governing bodies, including Joint Commission and CARF. The person answering your call is most likely an admissions representative employed by a treatment center. And that’s how it should be. This may or may not be a county-funded program, but they will respond to your needs with honesty and integrity. If you are not the right fit for the program, a good treatment center will happily refer you to another program that meets your needs.

Just like with anything in life, bad actors exist from time to time. You may have seen news reports on outliers that get shut down due to unethical practices. But that’s the takeaway too: these outliers are the exception, not the rule, and most of them get shut down pretty quickly. Random government inspections and stringent license renewal requirements ensure that only ethical operations stay open to answer calls for help.

Possibility #2

County Resources or Mental Health Nonprofit

This is a relatively uncommon possibility, simply because nonprofits do not typically have the same reach or resources as private companies. Examples include the Suicide Hotline, Salvation Army, and public county programs. In general, these types of organizations offer excellent resources because they do not stand to gain anything from pointing you in any given direction. They can be trusted to have your best interests in mind.

Possibility #3

Marketers at a Call Center

Unfortunately, “addiction help lines” advertised by call centers get a lot of exposure to the general population. These marketing companies operate with one factor in mind: commission. They have no skin in the treatment game (i.e. no reputation to protect and no government agencies to regulate them), so they have no reason to look out for callers’ welfare. Call centers don’t care if a person with dual diagnosis ends up in a program unequipped to handle mood disorders. Or if they forward that person to a treatment center that doesn’t offer the appropriate level of care.

So Who Answers Addiction Help Lines?

When calling an addiction help line, the person who answers the phone should have an intimate understanding of recovery programs. Otherwise, any information they pass along lacks the expertise required to make informed treatment advice. Even worse, the information they DO give often does not take individualized needs into account. Most often, they simply forward you to a listing entry without any heed of nuance.

The core of the problem lies in how individualized the disease of addiction actually is. A treatment program that works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Variables include appropriate gender ratio, ability to treat co-occurring behavioral disorders, appropriate type of clinical staff, the ratio of group to individual therapy, and many more factors. Navigating these variables calls for real experience in the mental health field. Treatment centers offer that by design. Nonprofit mental health services and county programs receive training to address these variables.

But call centers exist outside of the treatment equation entirely. When talking to a marketer at one of these companies, you or your loved one’s needs are not in knowledgeable hands. A mental health service or treatment center will handle your needs with the expertise and compassion required to get effective help.