American Rehab Part 5: The Work Cure

Dec 21, 2020

Thursday 12/24 8a: One man’s journey into Cenikor leads to punishments and almost two years of backbreaking labor. The program will change him. But can it help Chris Koon put his addiction behind him?

Koon chose Cenikor as an alternative to jail and a way to deal with his addiction to heroin. But when he walked through the doors of the treatment facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Koon found himself in a strange world of elaborate rules and humiliating punishments. After an orientation, he was loaded into a van and sent out to work. He did dangerous work like climbing scaffolding high in the air and moving metal beams that weighed hundreds of pounds.

When he was injured, Koon says Cenikor persuaded him to go back to work instead of getting an MRI.

The counseling Koon was promised was hard to come by. He worked such long hours that Cenikor counselors could barely find time for sessions.

So do the punishments and what Cenikor calls “work therapy” actually help? We talked to Dr. Sarah Wakeman, who specializes in addiction treatment, to find out.

Ultimately, after 18 months of unpaid labor, Koon was asked to leave and had to face recovery on his own.