Suspicious Sites

Suspicious Sites:

April 23, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
FindingDulcinea's mission is to cut through the clutter on the Web and spotlight sites that matter. Our new feature, Suspicious Sites, shines its high beams on sites we think you should be wary of. We’ll explain exactly what our concerns are, and offer better alternatives.

The Skinny

This appears to be a site chock-full of good information about drug abuse and treatment: Along the side are links to articles on dozens of topics related to drug and alcohol abuse. At the bottom of the homepage the site describes itself as “a comprehensive National directory of treatment centers and counseling services for those seeking treatment for drug addiction and much, much, more.” Fill out the form that tops every page, and “a counselor will contact you shortly.”

The Suspicion

Text like “much, much, more” doesn’t often come from reputable sources of medical help. The lack of an “About Us” page also raises suspicion, and the homepage claims that “ is part of a national not for profit organization” but doesn’t mention the name of that organization. And above every single seemingly helpful article, you’ll see that same registration form to fill out.

Add it all up and you have a pretty typical “lead gen” site. Lead gen (short for “lead generation”) is a common Internet marketing technique. A simple Web site with some basic but authoritative information masks the site’s sole purpose —to persuade visitors to complete a contact form. That contact information is then simply sold to vendors who have goods or services they’d like to sell the visitor.

In this case, vulnerable drug addicts and alcoholics looking for real help will be contacted only by a salesperson from a treatment center that paid for sales leads in the target zip code area.

The Solution

If USNoDrugs is at all serious about offering real help, it can start with being much more transparent about who runs the site. There may be nothing wrong with asking people to provide information about who they are and what help they need, but the registration form should take a back seat to the information, and the help offered must be legitimate.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for truly unbiased and authoritative information on treatment for various addictions, start with the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide” section. To find a certified specialist, check The American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders, a respected international organization that not only screens it members but clearly explains its membership criteria on its Web site. And if you need an inpatient treatment facility, use the “Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator” from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For more recommended Web sites that provide information on and help with various types of addiction, see the findingDulcinea Addiction Web Guide.

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