Bloomberg Businessweek

Google’s Opioid Ad Addiction

It helped treatment centers—some with shady histories—find abusers with insurance

In May, scores of people on the front lines of America’s opioid crisis packed a National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers conference in Austin to listen to a Google contractor named Josh Weum. Google didn’t send Weum there to talk about helping people get clean. He was explaining how to use Google to cash in on America’s $35 billion addiction treatment market.

Ostensibly, Weum was part of a panel discussion on ethics. But his job was to promote Google’s giant digital marketing business, and for 14 minutes he threw around terms like “desktop immersion,” “conquesting,” “multiscreen dynamic,” and “PPC” (pay per click). At the heart of Weum’s pitch was the product that’s made Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc., the second-most valuable company in the world: the AdWords keyword

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