Is Addiction Treatment Worth The Cost?

When you calculate the costs of long-term substance abuse, including doctor and hospital bills, potential legal costs, and loss of earning potential, it’s easy to see how even an expensive treatment program is the better option. Read why here.
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How Much Is Addiction Treatment? (Average Costs)

The cost of outpatient detox programs ranges from about $1000 to $1,500. Inpatient rehab is far more comprehensive and expensive and tends to cost anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 for 30 days. Other estimates show treatment can cost between $2,000 and $25,000 for a 30-day program and $0 to $10,000 for outpatient treatment. Detox ranges from $300 to $800 a day.

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Addiction is expensive. Whether you’re talking about treatment, dealing with the short- and long-term medical consequences, costs associated with the criminal justice system, or funding programs for prevention, the cost of abusing alcohol and drugs is high.

An analysis by the National Institute on Drug Abuses suggests that the total costs of prescription opioid use disorders and overdoses in the U.S. in 2013 was $78 billion. Of that, only 3.6 percent were for treatment.

Treatment programs are a financial investment, but they are proven to reduce the overall cost of addiction.

The US Department of Defense lists the average cost of medically assisted certified opioid treatment programs that utilize methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone as between $5,900 and $14,000 per year.

In addition to the direct cost of rehab, recovery might also include the expense of medication and relapse prevention. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Relapse rates for drugs are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse.”

Relapse prevention costs must be factored into the overall cost of treatment, but most experts agree the amount spent to help someone with addiction recovery and prevent his or her relapse is still less than what the untreated addiction would cost.

Studies have shown that every dollar invested in treatment has a return on investment (ROI) of $4 to $7.

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How To Pay For Treatment

Your first step toward paying for treatment is to contact your health insurance provider if you have one. Insurance companies understand the risks associated with untreated addiction and many are willing to cover certain treatment programs because they view it as a long-term investment.

Even with partial insurance coverage, addiction treatment can still be too expensive. Many people simply don’t have access to the amount needed to fund participation in an appropriate treatment program. If they have some money to put toward treatment, they must “make do” with outpatient treatment or a less comprehensive program they can afford.

In addition to health insurance, there are many government programs available that can help pay for addiction treatment.

 For example: 

  • Tricare for military veterans
  • Medicare for individuals 65 and older or 65 and under with a severe disability
  • Medicaid for individuals with a low income

Public assistance programs are also available to help pay for substance abuse treatment. If you or a loved one has questions about paying for treatment, you can contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or the National Institute on Drug Abuse at 301-443-1124.

In addition to the options listed above, some people with addiction choose to pursue other avenues of paying for treatment, including:

  • Many alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs accept credit cards or offer credit through CareCredit, which helps make medical payments affordable.
  • A bank loan might be another option. Interest on bank loans tends to be lower than credit cards, so the cost of borrowing money to pay for treatment will be a bit less in the long run. Unsecured and secured loans are available.
  • Asking friends or family to contribute to the cost of treatment and offering to pay them back once you’ve completed treatment.

Finally, some treatment programs offer scholarships that contribute to a portion of care. If you are evaluating treatment programs, make sure you ask about payment options.

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Factors That Influence the Cost of Addiction Treatment

The cost of addiction treatment varies based on several factors.

The first is the addiction being treated. Since different addictions require different treatment methods, they tend to vary in cost. Detoxification periods vary in length and long-term treatment features different components based on the type of substance.  Whether or not a person is dealing with substance abuse exclusively or also seeing treatment for a co-occurring condition will also affect the overall cost.

Other factors affecting treatment cost include:

  • Length of stay in the facility
  • Location of the facility (some areas are just inherently more expensive than others)
  • Size of the facility
  • The extensiveness of detox required before treatment can begin
  • Amenities (treatment center amenities range from bare-bones to full-service spas that promote overall well-being and healthy living)
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Is Treatment Worth Its High Cost?

Medical professionals and most who have needed addiction treatment or had a loved one who needed addiction treatment would say yes, it’s worth the high cost.

Policymakers also believe addiction treatment is worth the investment because treating an addiction costs less in the long-run. The cost of incarceration is far more than the cost of drug or alcohol treatment in the long-run.

Substance abuse takes a toll on a person’s body and he or she is at risk for needing medical attention earlier in life or that would otherwise never be needed.

When you calculate the costs of long-term substance abuse, including doctor and hospital bills, potential legal costs, and loss of earning potential, it’s easy to see how even an expensive treatment program is the better option.

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Resources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Much Does Opioid Treatment Cost?” Drugabuse.Gov, 2019, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/how-much-does-opioid-treatment-cost.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Is Drug Addiction Treatment Worth Its Cost?” Drugabuse.Gov, 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/drug-addiction-treatment-worth-its-cost.

Thomas, Deborah. “The Walker Center.” The Walker Center, 24 Jan. 2017, www.thewalkercenter.org/blog-posts/making-help-affordable-ways-to-pay-for-addiction-treatment. Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.

Escudero, Nicki. “How to Pay for Addiction Treatment.” The Simple Dollar, TheSimpleDollar.com, 18 Oct. 2019, www.thesimpledollar.com/financial-wellness/how-to-pay-for-addiction-treatment/. Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.

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Updated on: November 4, 2020
Author
Michael Bayba
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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