Online Marketing for Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

by Shane McIntyre Co-Founder TD Marketing Solutions

Digital Marketing for Substance Abuse and Drug Rehab Centers

Digital Marketing for Substance Abuse and Drug Rehab Centers is becoming an ever-evolving and increasingly challenging space. 

Our background is digital marketing in a variety of verticals. We have worked both as digital marketing agencies for treatment centers and in the health insurance space. (including many other industries)

The surprising thing we found so far is how little information there is out there on advertising and digital marketing for substance abuse and drug rehab centers.

Advertising and Digital Marketing for Drug Rehabs

As of September 2018, in the last 12 months, we have seen new regulations being passed and proposed in various states. Such rules include laws targeting digital marketing practices to new policies from advertisers such as Google and Facebook.

To understand why treatment centers find it challenging to compliantly and ethically compete, we must understand what caused the explosive growth in the number of treatment centers in the first place.

The Rise of Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

In 2010 the Patient Protection and Affordability Act, which is colloquially known as “Obamacare,” provided several provisions which allowed Substance Abuse Treatment facilities to enjoy massive growth. However, for some unscrupulous actors and illegitimate facilities, this provided a platform for massive fraud and abuse.

Included in these provisions were:

  • Coverage for adult children (ages 18-26)
  • Coverage for pre-existing medical and mental conditions
  • The establishment of a marketplace to buy coverage (
  • State-based exchanges and essential benefits

The coverage of these essential benefits included mental health and substance abuse.

As a result of the ACA’s (Obamacare’s) provisions, insurance treatment centers and Drug Treatment centers– which up to that point had predominantly been cash pay or a combination of cash payments– now had a much larger pool of potential clients. These new potential clients made available through the ACA created a much larger addressable market for high end luxury facilities.

Out-of-Network Facilities and Fraud

Because of the changes that occurred with Obamacare, many states saw a massive number of Out-of-Network only facilities opening. These states included California, Arizona, and Florida. As you may know, these three states are some of the top locations for addiction treatment. The opening of Out-of-Network facilities, combined with no restrictions or oversight from Google, Facebook or other Lead Aggregates, allowed for centers to acquire clients at a low fairly cost.

A by-product of this growth was operators that really had no business being in this space. As a result, several states began exposing massive fraud by a few bad actors.

The Rise of Substance Abuse Treatment and Google PPC

However, as more treatment centers started to come online, the market started becoming much more competitive. Because of this, platforms such as Google PPC began to see the cost per click bids increase. Cost per click bids would range upwards of $100 for a click.

Also, insurance companies started to push back because of the fraud. Even out of network policies referred to as PPO, policies began reimbursing less. Many treatment centers operating within their home states would no longer take local insurance policies. This combined with reimbursement rates becoming par with Medicare and in some cases Medicaid further shrank the addressable market of qualified patients for higher-end facilities.

With an decreasing addressable market for higher end facilities and a large supply of providers this caused increased competition among providers driving up the cost per acquisition across all verticals (PPC, Facebook, TV, Radio and other advertising mediums)

Google Ads Pulls the Plug on Drug Rehabs

In October of 2017 Google announced that it was no longer going to serve Ads for drug rehab centers. Therefore, many operators attempted to work around this by setting up other Ad accounts with Google and using “lower converting keywords” such as addiction hotline or bidding on competitor branded keywords.

After six months of reviewing their policies, Google announced in April of 2018 that it was allowing a select few addiction treatment providers on the platform only using a certification provided by a company called Legit Scripts. Legit Scripts is widely known for certifying and monitoring online pharmacies. Then, in August of 2018, Facebook followed suit and announced they would also require certification from Legit Scripts in order to advertise.

The Fall of Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

In 2018 we have seen a record number of treatment centers closing their doors.

We are just going to call it like it is. Treatment centers need to operate like healthcare companies. The ones that leverage technology, sound business processes, evidence-based treatment, ethical standards and have worked on going in-network with insurers seem to be the ones that are thriving.

Yes, Treatment Centers need to Advertise.

Every company needs to advertise and brand itself. Well, at least every good company. Let’s take a look at the hospital analogy. Along with various other healthcare companies who use marketing strategies, many hospitals market themselves. Healthcare companies market themselves using Billboards, SEO, SEM, Branding, Advertising, Advanced Nurturing, Follow up Systems, and more. Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities are no different.

Drug Addiction Treatment Centers are offering solutions to people in need of help and support. Any brand or company that aims to provide services to the public should have a robust advertising method. Digital marketing for substance abuse rehab centers is quite possibly one of the most important services our society needs in this digital age.

Believe or not, the same communication systems which help you acquire patients and clients can also be used to help follow up and improve outcomes for the client. This includes automated follow up at various touch points from the time patients discharge. Furthermore, it involves tracking the progress of the clients at the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day mark; as well as through the long-term, year one and year two marks.

Leveraging Data to Improve Client Care in Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities

This data can be used to optimize the treatment processes. The focus is to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. We are not clinicians, but we know data. Our goal is to utilize the knowledge of this data in ways that can better build platforms for companies offering treatment.

If a marketing campaign is costing too much or isn’t converting, we have advanced reporting and tools to see this real-time and make actionable and intelligent decisions.

However, we have met with centers (which we didn’t engage with) that would make claims on success rates but have absolutely no objective data to back it up.

If one of our API’s or Marketing Systems goes down, we get immediate alerts to our cell phone and emails.

If you are in a hospital and one of the metrics of your heart rate or blood pressure changes outside of a normal range it triggers an event and a nurse or doctor comes in to address it.

Why can’t the same level of intelligence be applied to Substance Abuse Treatment Centers as well?

It can, and it does. That is what Technology Digital Marketing is all about in the healthcare space. Yes, we can help you drive client acquisition in a scalable and compliant way.

But, let’s do better than that. Let’s leverage these communication systems to improve overall outcomes.

Shane McIntyre

TD Marketing Solutions


Find out how TD Marketing Solutions can grow your business

Your Name*
Your Email*
Your Website
What service do you need?
Lead GenerationAdvertisingBrandingSEO/SEMWeb DesignSocial Media MarketingMarketing Automation