CBS News investigation finds recruiters pay struggling addicts to get high-priced surgery

NEW YORK -- A CBS News investigation has uncovered an industry of recruiters taking advantage of struggling addicts.

The scheme lures addicts into getting a non-FDA approved Naltrexone implant, which releases medication to block opiate receptors in the brain, which makes it difficult for drug users to feel the effects of opioids. But as "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor reports, some patients are getting under-the-table cash payments from recruiters to get the surgery. Doctors can earn up to $30,000 from each procedure from insurance companies.

Industry insiders revealed to CBS News that some doctors hire marketers to generate business and some employ recruiters to pay patients to get the implant. One former recruiter says they preyed on people at their weakest moments.

"I would find anybody who was vulnerable," John, a former heroin user and recruiter, told CBS News. "I said, 'Hey, you know this really helped me out, this is how I got sober,' even if I wasn't sober when I was saying this."

Debbie Berry, of Ashland, Missouri, said her son went to California to get help with a heroin addiction. One day, Berry heard from her son, saying he found something to stay clean.

"He said, 'I'm going to get an implant put in. Your insurance will pay for it,'" Berry said.

But she did not know he was getting paid for the surgery.


Watch the full report on the "CBS Evening News" with Jeff Glor on Thursday, July 19, 6:30-7 p.m. ET.