How Much Does a Drug Addiction Cost?

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33607604_sNothing in life is free – or cheap or easy. Addiction is no exception. But for the lives that it steals, it quickly becomes a way of living; a new normal. Addicts end up spending most, if not all, of their money on their habit. As tolerance builds up and the addiction takes a stronger hold, the addict will spend more and more on the drug and the lifestyle in general (hotels, clubs, raves, parties, alcohol and more).

When the money runs out, the addiction doesn’t slow down or stop. Addicts will do anything to get more money, which is why they resort to stealing, pawning off valuables or running up their credit. What people don’t realize is that the cost of addiction is so much more than the expense of the drug. In reality, drug abuse costs the United States billions of dollars each year in increased health care costs, lost productivity and crime.

Economic Cost to Society

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance abuse costs our nation over $600 billion annually. Nearly $200 billion is spent separately on illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco use and their related economic burden such as productivity loss, health care, crime, incarceration and drug enforcement.

No matter how a substance abuse problem is validated by the addict, it increasingly interferes with a healthy lifestyle. Over time, addicts become less healthy and contribute less to society. Many stop working, taking care of their children or giving back to the community. They start living a life of crime, spend time in jail or become a burden to others.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, over 50 percent of inmates currently in federal prison are there for drug offenses. The drugs at war include powdered cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine. This means that nearly 100,000 people lose valuable time on their lives serving out jail time. Though some of the drug offenses are serious (drug trafficking, for instance), many of these individuals are serving out shorter prison sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.

Just as addiction never affects the addict solely, neither does the cost of addiction. As the addict spirals further into the habit, their families have no choice but to pick up the slack. They may cover the bills, the mortgage or childcare costs. They may allow their loved one to live with them rent free. They may bail their loved one out of jail, hire a lawyer or pay for insurance costs. But no one can put a price on the emotional toll that addiction takes on a family.

Is Drug Rehabilitation Worth the Cost?

When looking into drug addiction treatment, one of the first questions that families ask is how much the program will cost. This almost seems silly when you consider the financial burdens of addiction. Rehabilitation costs significantly less than the substance abuse and its related costs. But, it can help to put things into perspective as families and addicts need clarity before entering a treatment program.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction treatment can help reduce the health and social costs of substance abuse by far more than the cost of treatment itself. Estimates show that every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs returns $4 to $7 in drug-related crimes, theft and criminal justice costs.

Treatment is also far less expensive than the alternatives to using drugs. For instance, the average cost of methadone maintenance treatment for one year is $4,700 while the cost of being incarcerated for a year is $24,000. And, as the addict leaves treatment and begins holding down a job (even a part-time one) paying for food and rent, contributing to society and staying out of legal trouble, families save themselves tens of thousands of dollars.

Addiction treatment programs are worth the cost. Not only do they reduce the associated expenses of of substance abuse, but also they help addicts recover from the addiction so that they can be productive, contributing members of society that work, pay taxes and give back to the community. But how can families pay for the cost of a treatment program?

How to Cover the Cost of Treatment

Fortunately, there are many options available for funding rehabilitation. Many private insurance companies will cover at least some of the cost of treatment, so that’s the first place to look if you have coverage. Insurance companies may pay a little or a lot. It all depends on the insurance plan and provider. Those with private insurance also tend to have more options in terms of where they can seek treatment.

If you don’t have private insurance, there is public assistance available. Many cities, counties and states provide publicly funded addiction treatment programs for people without insurance. The services are either free or adjusted on a sliding scale. Though there are less options available, this form of treatment is better than not receiving help at all. Unfortunately, there can be long waiting lists.

If you don’t have insurance or your insurance won’t cover treatment, it’s worth considering financial assistance, a personal loan or credit cards. Though it can be hard to finance the cost of treatment, look at it as an investment that will reduce addiction-related costs while getting your loved one the help they need. After treatment, they can get a job and begin paying back what they borrowed. Most importantly, it could save their life, something you could never put a price on.