Most people in need of treatment for addiction are unsure where to go for help, so they turn to Google to point them in the right direction. This seems like a simple concept in theory but until recently a Google search for “addiction treatment near me” wasn’t necessarily leading people to the closest or best option for the treatment they were seeking. The reason for this was Google AdWords. When buying ads on Google companies bid against each other for their spot at the top of a search. Bidding prices had gotten so exorbitant for addiction treatment center ads that many well-meaning non-profit treatment providers were unable to afford the price to outbid for-profit treatment providers.
An addict in search of help may have been looking to Google for a reputable treatment facility in their state, but instead found themselves routed to an inexperienced provider in another state or in some cases a provider with a history of criminal activity — all as a result of that provider bidding more for their ad. This informative piece by The NY Times examines the lead up to Google’s recent recognition of this problem and their eventual decision to place limits on addiction treatment ads. This rare move of advertisement restriction on Google’s part is a hopeful indicator that they are willing to prioritize people’s well being over revenue.