Is Addiction Treatment Worth the Cost? The Numbers Say YES!

Is Addiction Treatment Worth the Cost? The Numbers Say YES!

There's lots of on-going talk about the incalculable personal losses caused by substance use disorders across the country.

There's even occasional discussions about the destructive effects of addiction that reverberate throughout American society - not just affecting families, but friends and acquaintances, schools and social groups, workplaces and local government. It reaches all the way up to the national and international powers that be, faced with the enormity of the problem.

Talk frequently includes discussions about the cost of addiction - but usually about the costs of drug and alcohol detox programs and the cost of drug rehab programs - is it in-patient or out-patient? how many weeks or months? insurance or no insurance? And what about everything else we'll have to make adjustments for during that time?

What's rarely discussed or even considered by many people, even those of us in the industry (and never mind the news or social media where it's simply invisible) is the absolutely colossal cost of addiction to the country.

It extends so far beyond what most people consider that it's almost difficult to believe.

$600 billion a year!

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the all-in costs of addiction to the American economy and its people - the enormous medical, legal, and work related losses such as wages, production and profits - along with all the accidents, overdoses, deaths and even funerals, is $600 billion - $100 billion MORE than half a trillion dollars and more than the economy of many small countries!

So, there is much more at stake here than the obvious personal turmoil and hardships visited on friends and families, costs that should concern anyone questioning the value of addiction treatment.

The endless battle by caregivers, treatment specialists, emergency medical personnel and law enforcement just trying to keep the ship afloat is only the face, albeit a brave one, of the war against addiction - the results of another war, the one declared on society by heartless drug dealers.

No one can put a price tag on the heartache of ruined families and unnecessary deaths, many entirely preventable if cost-effective alcohol and drug rehab programs were commonly available to all. But the plain facts are that addiction is costing America many times more than what it would cost to put everyone needing treatment into treatment, right now.

What can we do

When the billions in lost wages, lost business profits, welfare and health care costs, criminal justice and incarceration costs are added to the havoc wreaked on America's mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, and add to that the fact that it affects all levels of society, and no village, town or city is exempt, one might easily say that drug and alcohol use disorders have created possibly the most complex, costly and difficult social challenge this country has faced in modern times.

The answer, of course, is more available treatment facilities and more funding to create those facilities and provide better, more effective treatment.

NIDA points out how treatment is much less expensive than the alternatives we so often see, such as incarcerating addicted persons. There are several studies that show how every dollar invested in treatment turns a profit to society of $4 to $7 in reduced drug-related crime and criminal justice costs.

In fact, says NIDA, when healthcare savings are included, total savings to society exceed the costs of treatment by a ratio of 12 to 1.

Treatment saves $$$

"Major savings to the individual and to society also stem from fewer interpersonal conflicts, greater workplace productivity, and fewer drug-related accidents - including overdoses and deaths," NIDA says.

In other words, treatment not only reduces drug use, it reduces all the associated health and social costs.

So when the talk turns to the high cost of addiction treatment, we have all the facts and figures at hand to turn that talk around to the high cost of addiction!

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