Cost effectiveness of addiction treatment

How cost effective is addiction treatment? Often a necessary step for anyone trying to overcome a serious addiction, treatment can cost from $100 per day to $700 per day, or more. So is it really worth it? We explore here.

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The real cost of addiction

Do you know how much addiction costs you? Let’s do a little experiment and find out.

Be honest and estimate the amount of money that you spend on drugs or alcohol each month and multiply that by 12. That’s how much you directly spend on your addiction in one year. Multiply that by 2, 5, or 10 years: now, how much will you spend?

Next, consider the indirect costs of addiction. These include medical expenses, health insurance premiums, legal expenses, and lost wages from job losses or decreased productivity. You may not realize it, but addiction may cost you tens of thousands dollars over the course of a few years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.

The cost of addiction to society is also staggering. According to a Surgeon General report, the estimated economic cost of illegal drug addiction is around $181 billion per year. The cost of alcohol addiction was a little higher, at $185 billion each year.

Is addiction treatment worth it for me?

If you’re looking to overcome addiction, you’re probably wondering if you can afford it.  Plus, is addiction treatment really worth its cost? Now that you have a general idea of the cost of addiction for you, let’s consider the cost of addiction treatment. Keep in mind that many recovering addicts can and do receive some type of assistance in paying for their treatment.  This way, out-of-pocket costs can be quite low. In fact, with the help of government programs and sliding scale fees, you may be able to find very low cost or even free addiction treatment.

Inpatient residential treatment – According to one study, the estimated average cost of residential addiction treatment was just above $10K. Another study has estimated the average cost of residential addiction treatment at around $19K for a 28 day rehab.

Outpatient addiction treatment – The estimated cost of outpatient addiction treatment ranges from $2,300 – $6,800 for a 10 week program. Intensive outpatient treatment may be a little higher, and requires +9 hours per week of attendance in group work and individual therapy.

Cost effectiveness of addiction treatment

On an individual basis, one could argue that addiction treatment is very cost effective. If a person successfully completes addiction treatment, they will save a great deal of money, both directly and indirectly. For instance, they will not purchase drugs or alcohol, nor are they likely to have any costs associated with addiction, including medical or legal expenses. But the cost savings to society are also beneficial.

The return on each dollar invested in addiction treatment is between $4 and $7. This return takes into consideration drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. When health and medical cost savings are factored in, the return on every dollar spent on addiction treatment could potentially be as high as $12. A study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that every $100,000 spent on addiction treatment has a potential savings of $487,000 in health care costs and $700,000 in crime costs. This study also estimated that $398 per welfare recipient per month was avoided because of addiction treatment.

Cost effectiveness of addiction treatment for prisoners

There is much debate about whether addicted prisoners should be treated for addiction or simply incarcerated for their crimes. A study on the National Institute of Drug Abuse website found that the cost effectiveness of addiction treatment was high. On average, imprisoning an addicted offender cost $24,000 per year. On the other hand, a year of methadone treatment only costs about $4,700, which is a significant difference.

Cost effectiveness of addiction treatment questions

So, what do you think? Is addiction treatment worth it on an individual level? What about for society as a whole?Are you looking for ways to lower the cost of addiction treatment?  We look forward to hearing what you have to say on the subject, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Reference Sources: NCBI: The Economic Costs of Substance Abuse Treatment: Updated Estimates and Cost Bands for Program Assessment and Reimbursement
NIH News: NIDA Announces Recommendations to Treat Drug Abusers, Save Money and Reduce Crime
White House: Cost Benefits of Investing Early In Substance Abuse Treatment
NIH: Addiction Science: From Molecules to Managed Care
NIH: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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