Breaking News:EVENT: No Time Like the Present: Drug Policy Reform is More Urgent Than Ever

Drug Treatment: GAO Study Reveals Abuse Allegations, Deaths at Residential Treatment Programs

The first federal look at "boot camps," wilderness programs, and similar programs aimed at troubled youth, including those sent away because of drug use, has found widespread allegations of abuse at such facilities. The Government Accountability Office study released Wednesday also examined 10 cases where teens died in those programs.

According to the study, in 2005 alone, 1,619 allegations of abuse were made against such residential treatment facilities. "GAO could not identify a more concrete number of allegations because it could not locate a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects comprehensive nationwide data," the report noted.

The privately operated programs may or may not be subject to state regulation, depending on the state. There are no federal rules governing residential facilities for youth, something Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, may be preparing to change, but not quite yet.

"This nightmare has remained an open secret for years," Miller said in a statement. "Congress must act, and it must act swiftly." He has sponsored a bill designed to encourage states to enact regulations.

The GAO examined 10 cases between 1990 and 2004 where teens died at those facilities. Three of the victims were placed in the facilities by their parents because of their drug use.

In one case, a 16-year-old girl was sent to wilderness survival school because of depression and her parent's fears about her drug use. Her parents paid $25,000 to the facility operators, and $4,000 more to a "transportation service" who dragged her from her bed at 4am and deposited her in the middle of a hike in the Utah desert. The girl died three days later of heatstroke.

In the second drug treatment-related fatality, a 16-year-old boy was sent to a wilderness survival school because of his parents' concern about "minor drug use, academic underachievement, and association with a new peer group that was having a negative impact on him." He died of a perforated ulcer 31 days into the 90-day, $18,000 program after program staff ignored his repeated collapses and pleas for help.

In the third case, a 15-year-girl placed in a wilderness program because of a history of drug use and mental problems died of dehydration and heat exhaustion before her parents even made it back home. When they arrived upon their return from dropping off their daughter, a phone message from the facility awaited them. There had been an accident, the message said. But instead, the girl died after repeatedly collapsing on a strenuous hike.

Each year thousands of teenagers are referred for drug treatment, even after being caught once smoking marijuana. The drug czar uses teen drug treatment figures to argue that marijuana is a serious problem, but doesn't mention that most teens "seeking" treatment for marijuana are ordered there by courts or schools. Nor does he mention that when it comes to treatment facilities like those examined by the GAO, the cure can be infinitely worse than the disease.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Boot camps

All of the above-mentioned tragedies I am sure, are more than likely an underestimation of the number of fatalities that occur at those damnable facilities. I doubt if anyone is really keeping track. After all, they are drug users and do not deserve even a shred of compassion.
Of course, we all know that "compassionate conservatism" counts those deaths, injuries and physcic damage as positive results. They would pick a number (usually a large number and one that cannot be verified) that represents all the youngsters who have been "saved" from a life of recreational drug use and all that implies. Of course the implications of drug use stand somewhere between sticking a gun in one's ear and pulling the trigger to leading a non-productive, trouble-making life.
The fees that are charged by these Auswitch institutions pretty much tell the whole story. Why they exist and will continue to.


Since the programs may or may not be subject to state regulation, there are going to be the malevolent programs whose only aim is to make money. However, with that being said, there are the programs that truly do care for at risk youths. Consulting the NATSAP website will garner a lot of information before parents make the decision on whether or not to send their child on a wilderness therapy program.


NATSAP is basically an accredation service that these places pay to belong to, so that they appear to be regulated.

Please delete industry spam above

If the people posting actually read the links or attended the hearings, they would have discovered that several of the deaths occurred at NATSAP programs and NATSAP does not police its members.

There are no safe programs in an unregulated industry: safety requires oversight and checks and balances.

federal programs/narconon

why do we not try different programs what are we trying to do to the youth look at utah's program very sucessful!!!

real perspective on "treatment"

If anyone would take the time to read the related studies they would find that:

1. Alcoholism, which includes all drugs (legallity is irrelevant) was long ago recognized as a disease.
You can't "bully" someone out of alcoholism any more than you can bully them out of diabetes. Variations on this type of behavior modification model have been around since the 60's and have never had any noteworthy success.
2. To this point, the only method with any sigificant success rate is the utilization of the 12 step model. And even then, success rates on first attempt patients is modest at best.

The camps, houses, etc., of the type described above, are no more than huge money making opportunities for greedy, immoral, vultures, capitalizing on the fear and desperation of misinformed or uninformed parents. The programs that have had any kind of success are deeply routed in the 12 step approach to recovery. Boot camps are a very dangerous and extreme attempt to scare the disease out of a teen. Get help from an appropriately educated (MS or PhD), and licensed professional. Not drill sargeants. Parents, please do the research.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School