He was a young, successful stockbroker turned entrepreneur living in the party scene of Los Angeles. Then, Chris Cohn hurt his back. This led to an addiction to prescription medication.

Every addict has a story. The Phoenix native knows his isn’t unusual.

“We hear that a lot in this business. How people get prescribed prescription opiate medication and unwillingly get addicted to them,” said Cohn, who founded the Scottsdale Recovery Center in 2008.

Cohn underwent treatment in San Francisco 10 years ago and has remained sober ever since. While in rehab, he realized a business calling of a different kind. He returned to Arizona to answer it and help those needing to get sober.

The 60- to 90-day program starts with a pre-evaluation over the phone to make sure the prospective patient is a fit. If the person suffers from depression, is suicidal or mentally ill, that requires a higher level of care and Cohn refers him or her to an appropriate treatment center. If needed, the center partners with a private detox center and the patient is brought to the center afterward.

Cohn said it’s difficult to track accurate numbers on the success rate of the center’s patients. The relapse rate for drug addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is 40 to 60 percent.

“If you come here, you can have the best success rate as long as you put in the work,” Cohn said.

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Seventy-five percent of Cohn’s staff has personal experience with addiction and found long-term sobriety, he said. Some graduated from SRC. Cohn drew heavily from his own rehab encounters and implemented modalities that were effective for him and colleagues’ patients.

One is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, therapy. It’s an intense one-on-one trauma treatment that helps identify any type of trauma, usually from childhood, that has influenced an addict’s behavior and tendency to relapse. Cohn described it as training the subconscious to perceive the experience as a positive, therefore eliminating it as a trigger to use.

Cohn hired specially certified therapists for this treatment, which are more costly.

“But I know it works,” he said. “I knew how extensive it was and how deep I had to dig into my own life and uncover things as to why I started using drugs in the first place.”

Growing demand

The center’s growth reflects demand for its services. What started with one house and nine patients has grown to five houses and 40 beds, Cohn said. He is in the process of opening a detox facility that will have another 25 beds. They currently call a 35,000-square-foot facility home.

About 2,500 patients have been treated at SRC, with 60 percent coming at the insistence of a family member, Cohn said. The remainder is addicts who have hit rock bottom and made the move themselves.

One of them is Rudy Montijo, who checked himself in four years ago with addictions to alcohol and cocaine. He was in a car accident that temporarily forced him onto a respirator. Before that, in 2008, Montijo went through outpatient treatment in Tucson but relapsed a year later with a vengeance.

“I was at a point where I knew I was going to die if I didn’t stop. Or kill somebody else,” said Montijo, 37, who lives in Scottsdale. His sobriety date: Aug. 12, 2013. He had been using since he was 12.

Montijo was evaluating a handful of treatment options before selecting SRC. He liked the length of the program and the multiple treatment modalities. Yoga and EMDR were the ones that he found the most effective.

“The EMDR helped me alleviate a lot of the shame and guilt I had. The yoga helped me look and find answers within myself instead of looking outside,” he said.

He graduated from the 90-day program and continued outpatient treatment for a total of six months under SRC care.

Today, Montijo does mortgages as his 9-to-5 job. He’s also a paid motivational speaker and travels the country to share his experiences in hopes of helping others. He credited the center with enabling him to start working and going back to school while in treatment with maintaining his sobriety. Montijo gets continued support through SRC barbecues and alumni events.

“One reason people relapse is they go back (to life) too fast. I was able to gradually get back into the swing of life,” he said. “Chris is genuinely in it to help people. They don’t just kick you out when your insurance runs out. So many centers out there are so focused on the money aspect.”

Walking in clients’ shoes

The rising addiction rates, its costs and relapse rates have made recovery a lucrative industry.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 24 million people ages 12 and older have sought treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in the U.S. And, alcohol addiction studies reveal that about 50,000 cases of alcohol overdose are reported each year.

The surging opiate epidemic is the latest addition to these statistics. Locally, the number of opioid deaths has increased more than 16 percent since 2014, and 74 percent since 2012, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Heroin has increased from 11 percent of opioid deaths in 2007 to 39 percent in 2016.

Cohn described the industry as one fueled by changes to health care that allows patients to enter a higher-priced facility that they never could afford before. This created a breeding ground for fraud and competition from unethical facility owners who, Cohn explained, are in it for the income generated by hefty insurance payoffs and cut corners when it comes to true patient care. The equity in buying and selling facilities makes it a big business model.

“A center that is owned and operated by people with long-term sobriety that have been there and come out the other side is key. We’ll be the ones that survive in the end,” Cohn said. “Our primary focus is to help those that come through our doors. We’re not particularly money motivated.”

In addition to bachelor’s degrees in psychology and business from the University of Arizona, Cohn holds a master’s degree in addiction counseling from Grand Canyon University, and is a Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor and National Certified Recovery Specialist.

Cohn talked about a man who was living on the streets, caught in a downward spiral laced with alcohol and heroin. Cohn gave him a scholarship to attend the program — something he does a few times a year for someone who has no insurance but Cohn feels can make the most of the opportunity.

He graduated 5½ years ago and has remained sober. This man works for SRC in transportation, has a nice apartment and is about to start a family.

“He was the most grateful person that came through these doors. He’s a living example of, if you really want it, you can have it,” Cohn said. “That’s what we’re here to do. To help in any way we can.”

Scottsdale Recovery Center

WHERE: 10446 N. 74th St., Suite 150, Scottsdale. 


INTERESTING STAT: In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

DETAILS: 888-663-7847, scottsdalerecovery.com.

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