The Rehab Industry
Huge groups of vulnerable people, both addicts and their loved ones, turn to Facebook groups for emotional support as they navigate addiction and recovery. Rehab marketers know just where to go to find the most desperate – and potentially lucrative – sales targets. Some marketers even start groups themselves, with or without disclosing their financial ties to rehabs.
Popular websites The Fix and Rehab Reviews, as well as Addiction Unscripted, a publication that's been promoted by Mark Zuckerberg, double as marketing operations for luxury treatment centers. But it can be hard for readers to know exactly who's funding their news source.
How do so many addicts end up in Florida and California for rehab? Very often, it's through unscrupulous internet marketers, who use deceptive Google ads and high-pressure sales tactics to turn desperate people into "heads in beds."
- After publication of this story, Google halted the sale of ads alongside many addiction-related searches. You can read my followup here.
Addicts for Sale, BuzzFeed News
In Delray Beach, the "recovery capital of America," addicts are bought and sold for their insurance policies, and many of them are coerced into sex.
Mental Health in Vulnerable Populations
The Huge Impact of Donated Bras, Racked
Be a Dear and Donate a Brassiere is an organization that distributes bras to homeless and otherwise at-risk women. Its outreach focuses on dignity and empowerment, highlighting how small luxuries like choosing the right bra size and style can be a lifeline to women struggling to survive.
Eddie Davison's Life Sentence, BuzzFeed News
Locked up in a psych ward under the false premise that he was a convicted sex offender, Eddie Davison sued New York state for false imprisonment. Now the state is charging him $2 million.
Breakdown, The Verge
An investigation into Talkspace, a startup that uses the gig economy model for anonymous, chat-based therapy, putting patients and therapists at risk.
The Antipsychotic Boom, BuzzFeed News
A decade ago, drug companies started heavily marketing the antipsychotics Abilify, Seroquel, and Zyprexa as treatments for depression — despite concerns over serious side effects. That marketing is subsiding now as generics hit the market, but it may have created a dangerous clinical standard.
A Sweeter Pill, The Archipelago
In a San Francisco homeless services center, homeopaths have become de-facto counselors for homeless veterans living with PTSD, particularly those who decline traditional therapy.
The Pull to Pull, Racked
Cheryn Salazar's compulsive hair pulling led to her career selling wigs and makeup for those with medical hair loss. For her, customer service often means counseling people as they navigate questions of identity, beauty, and the search for a supportive community.
Animals Versus People
Most of the fish we eat die by asphyxiation. But there’s a better way, both for the fish and those who eat them.
Over the last three decades, massive sulcata tortoises have become a popular American family pet. Now, thousands of giant tortoises, often deformed due to improper care, are filling up sanctuaries. Meet the people who made that happen — and the ones who are begging you not to buy one.
Valuable Antibodies at a High Cost, The New Yorker
Santa Cruz Biotechnology, one of the largest suppliers of research antibodies in America, violated federal animal welfare regulations for close to a decade, including hiding over 800 goats from federal inspectors.
Ticks and Cowboys, Modern Farmer
On the border of Texas and Mexico, government-employed cowboys ride the river to keep a dangerous pest at bay.
The Flight of the Ladybugs, The Awl
Gardeners are increasingly buying wild-caught ladybugs as natural pest control. But they don't work, and scientists worry the harvest might harm wild populations.
Rescue Dog, The Archipelago
A personal essay on the aftermath of sexual assault, and how my pal Ickus the dog was an unfailing source of support in the years that followed.
The Peer Review Scam, Nature
The co-founders of Retraction Watch and I reported on a "ring" of researchers who were caught peer reviewing their own papers. We wrote about the investigation into the scam, and the technological loopholes that made it possible in the first place.
Taking the Silver Cure, The Awl
A deep-dive into the internet community of people who believe colloidal silver, tiny particles of silver mixed with water, can cure everything from cancer to HIV.