High-end addiction clinics are wooing the wealthy
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In basement premises on a quiet street in London’s Mayfair, a start-up is pitching for custom from the very wealthy. Unlike many of its neighbours, however, Addcounsel is not offering investment services. Instead, for an average of £45,000 a week, clients can buy a bespoke, one-to-one counselling and treatment plan for addiction and many other mental health problems.
Like many other practitioners and clinics, the founders of Addcounsel, which opened its doors to clients in April last year, have realised that the mental wellbeing of the very rich makes a potentially lucrative business. Many involved in their treatment say the wealthy are particularly vulnerable to mental health and addiction disorders because their families and servants become “enablers”.
As one professional explains, a less wealthy person might seek help after losing their job due to mental health trouble, or after drink-driving cost them their driving licence. A rich person, on the other hand, might be living off a trust fund, is likely to have staff to remember to pay all the bills, and is free of worry about driving drunk or under the influence of drugs, because there is always a chauffeur.
“Excess champagne is just as toxic as excess corner-shop vodka,” says Niall Campbell, a consultant psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Priory’s Roehampton hospital in London. “I’ve had patients who say matter of factly, ‘I drink champagne and take cocaine regularly because I can afford it’, but all addicts hit the buffers eventually. There’s no invisibility cloak for addiction, however mega-wealthy you are.”
Unlike their poorer sufferers, money is no object when it comes to choosing treatment facilities.
At the Priory — where chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group António Horta-Osório checked in after he was diagnosed with stress-induced insomnia — there are a range of different options available.
Patients with anxiety and depressive illnesses can be managed as outpatients. For those with a drink or drug problem, a 28-day residential addiction treatment with medically managed detox in Priory’s main facility at Roehampton comes to £22,500. Campbell says discretion is part of the service. Members of the public cannot enter patient areas without clearance. Patients can check in under a pseudonym and all clients sign a confidentiality agreement on admission. Encountering other patients is often part of the treatment because, as Campbell explains, group therapy can be extremely helpful in treating addiction.
At Addcounsel, in contrast, the fee secures total privacy. The company intends to deal with no more than three clients at a time who will never see one another during treatment. They are housed separately in large houses and apartments in London’s prestigious Chelsea and Belgravia districts. The fee also pays for 24-hour care, detox in a hospital if required, a team of specialists and even a chef.
“I’ve done my research — we’re a new concept in the UK,” says Paul Flynn, co-founder and chief executive of Addcounsel. The exclusivity of his approach appears to closely mimic Switzerland’s Kusnacht Practice, which could be the most expensive rehab facility in the world according to rehabreviews.com and thefix.com — websites that compare pricing and treatments at facilities.
Zurich-based Kusnacht charges SFr80,000-SFr120,000 ($85,000-$130,000) a week for its all-inclusive services. Primary treatment typically lasts for six to 12 weeks, during which time the client will usually be housed in a luxury residence near the shores of Lake Zurich. They will be looked after by a personal butler who is also a chef. In addition they will have the use of a maid and a driver. The clinic prides itself on its initial assessment and medical examination, which is used to design a unique treatment plan for every client including what it calls “biochemical restoration” that helps avoid the use of prescription medicines.
“They want Swiss quality and they can afford it,” says Eduardo Greghi, head of client relations at Kusnacht.
The clinic’s bespoke approach might sound attractive and it is certainly expensive, but is that any guarantee that it will be best for the client?
“Some people with money think that value is related to price. If it costs more it must be worth more,” says Bob Poznanovich, vice-president of business development at Hazelden Betty Ford, the largest non-profit provider of behavioural health treatment in the US, which resulted from Hazelden’s merger with Betty Ford in 2014.
The latter was co-founded in 1982 by the former first lady, who helped lessen some of the stigma associated with addiction when she admitted struggling with prescription drug and alcohol abuse in 1978.
The merged organisation manages 16 facilities around the country of which five are what Poznanovich calls “high-intensity residential”, which comes at a basic price of $1,200 a day.
He advises potential clients to look for “evidence-based” treatments. “Dolphin therapy or wolf therapy may sound nice, but there is no evidence that they work,” he says.
He also warns against choosing a facility that will not use drugs to ease withdrawal from opiates. He adds that together with group therapy, shared rooms of the sort prevalent at Hazelden Betty Ford have been shown to help those recovering from addiction, no matter how wealthy they are and how much they might value their privacy.
Campbell from the Priory hospital also recommends some sensible homework: “Look for credibility, qualified medical staff and somewhere that treats dual diagnoses if that is your need.” A dual diagnosis could combine anxiety and depression, or depression and addiction, for example.
Flynn from Addcounsel agrees that it is wise to check the expertise of the team providing the care, including whether they can deal with a dual diagnosis.
In the end, however, the decision on where to seek help may well come down to personal taste.
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