Various types of dependence have taken a toll on society as a whole. They are associated with lost productivity, increased risk of serious physical and mental health issues, and burdens on families and the healthcare system. Given the enormity of this problem, it is essential that dependence treatment services be made accessible to those who need them.
The digital marketing of dependence treatment services provides information on how afflicted individuals and their families can find the support they need. This can be life-saving information for many. But how should these treatment services be promoted ethically to avoid harm?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has issued a policy statement recommending ethical standards in the promotion of dependence treatment services. The goal is to protect patients and ensure that they receive accurate information on the treatments available to them.
These are helpful guidelines that treatment services and their marketing teams can use to steer their promotional practices.
Truthfulness About Scientific Evidence Backing Treatments
Promotional materials of dependence treatment centers must clearly identify and explain all the services they provide. That explanation must include how these treatments will be done.
Treatment centers must also clarify in their promotional materials whether those services are supported by scientific evidence. They must provide reliable information on the findings of scientific studies regarding the effectiveness and success of those treatments.
The ASAM cites the Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a vital tool for individuals and families to verify evidence-based treatments.
Promotional Materials Must Not Be Passed Off as Educational Materials
Dependence treatment centers and their marketing arms must not pass off promotional materials as educational materials. These must instead be clearly labeled as advertising materials.
This also applies to websites claiming to be educational about dependence treatments. Any informational website of dependence treatment services must carry their name.
Provide Proof of Regulatory Compliance and Personnel Credentials
Promotional materials of dependence treatment centers must show proof of their compliance with regulations covering their services. That includes all required licenses and certifications for the program.
They must also provide complete information on the credentials of their personnel to establish their competence. That includes their educational background and licenses.
Present Costs Up Front
Promotional materials of dependence treatment centers must provide complete information on the costs of treatment. That must include information on the extent of insurance coverage if any.
Protect Patient Privacy
Promotional materials of dependence treatment centers must not disclose patient information. Patients are vulnerable and their privacy must be protected at all times. Patient testimonials can be considered to be exploitative since they do not benefit the patient.
Do Not Disparage Other Treatments
Promotional materials of dependence treatment centers must not attack or denigrate other treatment methods. They must focus only on providing scientific evidence for the treatments that they are offering.
No Paid Patient Referrals and Recruitment
Dependence treatment centers must not pay for patient recruitment and referrals. Their promotional campaigns must not use these inducements.
Social Media and SEO Marketing
The social media marketing and search engine optimization practices of dependence treatment centers must not violate any of the ethical standards mentioned here. They must not use any form of deception.
Call for Collaboration and Legislation
The ASAM is calling on legitimate dependence treatment centers to work with it along with other organizations such as the SAMHSA, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), related state agencies, consumer groups, and other stakeholders.
The goal is to ask the federal and state governments to pass legislation prohibiting unethical practices. Instead, materials with accurate and comprehensive information must be made available for consumers to use for detecting fraudulent practices.
The Importance of Ethics in Promoting Dependence Treatment
Dependence is a complex disease, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for treatment. It requires long-term treatment and support. False promises create false expectations and can be harmful.
It is important that people have accurate information on the nature of dependence and its treatment. They need to know that there are effective treatments available and what these are. They must also know if treatments are not scientifically proven. Only then can they make informed decisions on which treatment center to seek help from.
ASAM says that dependence treatment centers’ promotional materials must not make false or misleading claims about their services. All dependence treatment centers must show proof of regulatory compliance and personnel credentials. Their promotional materials should present the costs of treatment upfront and not recruit or pay for patient referrals. Social media marketing and SEO practices should not use deception, and dependence treatment centers should not denigrate other treatment methods. Finally, ASAM is calling for more legislation to prohibit these unethical practices.
The ASAM is committed to ensuring that people get the information they need on dependence and its treatment. It will contiue to monitor promotional materials of dependence treatment centers and call out those who violate ethical standards.