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The Cost of Addiction vs Treatment
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The Cost of Addiction vs Treatment
The Cost of Addiction vs Treatment 2018-03-20T05:40:06+00:00

The Cost of Addiction vs Treatment


More than 20 million Americans have drug or alcohol problems severe enough to call for some form of substance use treatment[i]. However, less than four million Americans receive any kind of treatment. The direct and indirect costs of substance use disorders are massive. Wider use of effective addiction treatment programs would significantly cut these costs while making sure people get the help they need.

Who Needs Substance Treatment?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) makes yearly estimates of the number of people in the U.S. who need substance treatment. The latest SAMHSA figures, covering the year 2016, show that roughly 21 million people over the age of 11 need help. That’s the equivalent of almost 8 percent of the total population in this age range.

By percentage, the single largest group with a need for drug or alcohol treatment is young adults age 18 to 25. More than 15 percent of all Americans in this age range have a serious substance problem. By sheer numbers, the group most in need of treatment is adults over the age of 25. More than two-thirds of all people with serious drug or alcohol problems (14.5 million) fall into this category.

Who Receives Substance Treatment?

SAMHSA figures show that roughly 3.8 million Americans over the age of 11 enter some form of substance use treatment. This is less than one-fifth of the total population affected by drug or alcohol problems. By percentage, people between the ages of 18 and 25 receive help most often. By sheer numbers, people over the age of 25 receive help most often. Many people who reach out for help turn to a specialized addiction treatment facility. However, over a million and a half of those with a substance use disorder get help from a general physician or some other professional not focused on addiction treatment.

The Direct and Indirect Costs of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Several federal agencies — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — periodically estimate the social and financial drain of substance abuse and addiction in the United States. The CDC’s most recent estimate of the cost of alcohol problems[ii] is nearly $250 billion a year. Loss of productivity in the workplace accounts for most of this total. In descending order of the amount of money spent annually, other alcohol-related costs include:

  • The need to provide healthcare for affected people
  • The need to prosecute and incarcerate people accused of alcohol-related crimes
  • The damage caused by alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents

Roughly 40 percent of the bill for these costs is picked up by local, state and federal governments. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent estimates indicate that the cost of nicotine/tobacco addiction is roughly $300 billion a year.[iii] Over half of this total comes from the need to provide healthcare for people affected by tobacco-related illnesses.

The most recent estimates for the cost of problems related to the use of illicit and illegal drugs exceed $190 billion a year. Estimates for the cost of problems related to prescription painkiller abuse/addiction are just below $80 billion a year. A conservative estimate for the direct and indirect costs of substance abuse and addiction is $740 billion a year.

Treatment As a Cheaper Alternative

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has analyzed the cost of substance treatment[iv] compared to the direct and indirect cost of untreated drug and alcohol problems. Researchers at the agency conclude that the social and health-related drain of untreated abuse and addiction far outweighs the amount of money it would take to treat all affected people.

The biggest savings appear in the amount of money it takes to meet the health needs of people with untreated substance use problems. NIDA estimates that every dollar spent on treatment programs reduces the nation’s healthcare costs by $5 to $8, or even more. In addition, each dollar spent on treatment results in a roughly $4 to $7 dollar drop in the amount of money lost to:

  • The costs of theft and other substance-related crimes
  • The need to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate people for substance-related offenses

Other treatment cost savings include:

  • Reduced numbers of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents
  • A reduction in the number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses
  • Increased productivity in the workplace
  • A reduction in the number of violent altercations

How to Increase Participation in Addiction Treatment

The only way to reap the full financial and social benefits of substance use treatment is to get more Americans enrolled in treatment programs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse identifies several steps which can help improve the rate of program participation[v]. These steps include:

  • Making it easier to for people with substance use disorders to gain access to proven treatments
  • Making it more socially acceptable to seek treatment for drug and alcohol problems
  • Providing wider access to insurance plans that cover the cost of substance treatment
  • Using public health campaigns and other efforts to make the general population, doctors and people with substance problems more aware of the positive personal and social outcomes of effective treatment

NIDA researchers note that these techniques must be combined and not used separately. To support the role of doctors who don’t specialize in substance treatment, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is undertaking campaigns designed to ease the use of abuse/addiction screening procedures. The agency is also increasing its support for a substance abuse deterrent technique called brief intervention, as well as its support for effective referral systems for people who need to enroll in treatment.

Entering an Addiction Treatment Program

Transformations Treatment Center is dedicated to helping people from all walks of life receive the help they need for substance abuse and addiction. Our medical and therapeutic treatments are administered by addiction professionals in a safe and caring environment. Whether you or your loved one require inpatient care or outpatient care, our certified programs offer individualized plans designed to provide a solid pathway to sobriety.

[i] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States – Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm#tx2

[ii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy
https://www.cdc.gov/features/costsofdrinking/

[iii] National Institute on Drug Abuse/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Trends & Statistics – Costs of Substance Abuse
https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics#supplemental-references-for-economic-costs

[iv] National Institute on Drug Abuse: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment – A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Is Drug Addiction Treatment Worth Its Cost? https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/drug-addiction-treatment-worth-its-cost

[v] National Institute on Drug Abuse: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment – A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): How Do We Get More Substance-Abusing People Into Treatment?
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-do-we-get-more-substance-abusing-people

The Cost of Addiction vs Treatment

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The Cost of Addiction vs Treatment