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The Migration of Addiction Treatment Centers to California

Last Updated on April 5, 2018 by Inspire Malibu

California is known for many things: the beaches, movie stars, Hollywood, and outstanding weather, just to name a few. It’s also home to a large number of addiction treatment centers, with many of them located in and around Malibu. But why are so many drug rehab centers in Los Angeles? To answer that, we need to step back and look at some history.

Malibu Rehab

An Early History of Drug Rehab

Alcohol and drug dependence have been objects of discussion and speculation for many hundreds of years. The 1750s saw the formation of sobriety circles in which members would encourage an alcohol addicted person to overcome their dependency by relying on their ancestral belief systems.

In the 1800s, Benjamin Rush made the shocking declaration that dependence on alcohol was not, in fact, a moral failing, but rather, an actual medical condition. In the 1840s, sober houses were established to help those who were addicted to alcohol. And, in 1867, the first sober house for women, called the Martha Washington Home, was opened in Chicago.

From 1879 through the 1960s, there were Keeley Institutes200 facilities to be exact – throughout Europe and the United States. Dr. Keeley was a surgeon who thought he could cure alcoholism by injecting his patients with gold, silver, and mercury. We now know that these types of procedures caused more harm than good.

The Keeley Institutes did, however, have a positive impact on some of their addiction patients. It was not the injections that were benefitting them, it was the treatment routine. The Keeley routine included a thirty-one day stay at the center, where patients would receive nutritious meals, as well as clean, fresh air and plenty of exercise. This healthy environment gave the centers a safe, secure, and comfortable atmosphere that made patients feel welcome and ready to tackle their addictions.

The Rise of Alcoholics Anonymous and Beyond

After prohibition ended, Alcoholics Anonymous was created and proved to be a huge factor in the success of those with addiction. People felt like they had the support and camaraderie they needed to overcome their dependence on alcohol.

The first AA meeting in Los Angeles took place on December 19, 1939, at the home of Kaye Miller in Westwood, California. With fifteen people in attendance, Kaye Miller telegraphed Bill W. in New York letting him know that the first AA meeting in Los Angeles had been a success. This probably marked the beginning of rehab in California.

In the 1950s, the American Medical Association finally officially declared alcoholism a medical condition. This brought about the development and utilization of drugs to treat the disease.

In 1967, the opening of San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic highlighted addiction treatment as a right. Crisis intervention and detox services became available to more Californians as treatments worked their way through the state to Los Angeles. Then, in 1973, the California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) was founded.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs was founded in 1979. Its purpose was to deal with substance abuse issues within the state.

Rehab Clinics in the 1980s

Rehab clinics started forming during the early 1980s, particularly the popular Betty Ford Clinic, established by then-President Ford’s wife.

Also in the 80s, California became the first state to add addiction medicine as a specialty for medical doctors, adding this certification exam in the year 1983. As a result, CSAM was officially recognized by the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 1989.

Then the U.S. government decided to wage a War on Drugs. During this time, television advertisers came out with commercials that are now considered iconic. Do you remember the commercial with the egg in the frying pan? “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.”

Together, the government’s educational material and the advertisers’ ability to spin that material in eye-catching ways contributed to a rise in the public’s awareness that something still needed to be done about drug abuse. Therefore, innovative people took the opportunity to create inpatient drug rehab centers.

Eventually, some of these centers evolved into posh, spa-like centers with the latest in technology, medications, and counseling, and the most current rehab research and techniques.

Today, there are over 1,400 drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities in California. Malibu is home to dozens of these facilities thanks to its historical significance, resources, and proximity to Los Angeles.

How Have Other States Fared?

Throughout the United States, other states have also been highly influential in the field of rehabilitation. Florida, for example, earned the title of “Recovery Capital of America” based on its services and successes.

Compared to California, Florida has about the same density of rehabilitation centers today, with approximately 700 rehab centers (and approximately half the population of California). Other major regions include Arizona and Minnesota, which support both active rehabilitation treatment centers as well as post-rehab communities.

Why Does Malibu Have So Many Treatment Centers?

Location, location, location! California has always been on the forefront of the latest thing, and addiction treatment is no different from any other trend. With the current opioid epidemic, many people feel there’s no better place for treatment than in sunny southern California.

The “Malibu Model” began almost twenty years ago and the number of treatment centers in the area has risen steadily ever since.

Part of the appeal is the proximity to Hollywood. The town is no stranger to excess, and celebrities have plenty of money to pay for the most comfortable amenities possible at the Malibu rehab of their choice.

No one can deny that Malibu, CA is absolutely beautiful. The Mediterranean-like weather and beaches make this area a popular destination. It’s also one of the factors that are important to many people when considering where they want to go to get clean and sober.

There are a number of world-class universities located in Southern California. USC and UCLA have prestigious medical programs with academic and research facilities focused on the latest treatments in medicine and psychology.

Malibu is also the home of many celebrities and the people that live in the area respect their privacy. It’s a laid-back environment that isn’t easily distracted or star-struck, which lends itself to the privacy of everyone, including those in recovery.

Today, California is the leading state in the country for addiction treatment facilities. Like the gold rush in the mid-1800s, addiction treatment moved west and found a central location in and around Malibu.

Is Location Really Important For Recovery?

A person’s environment is extremely important to their recovery. Some people prefer an environment that is in the mountains. Others prefer being in the midst of a redwood forest. Still others want to be near the beach.

Being able to get fresh air and exercise is an important part of any recovery program. If patients can do that in an environment that they find personally healing, they are more likely to succeed. It worked for the Keeley Institutes.


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