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Which Costs More: Treatment or Addiction?

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Cost is a major factor when it comes to deciding whether to seek treatment for a loved one who has a drug or alcohol addiction. But the cost of maintaining drug or alcohol dependence is far greater in terms of the negative financial, social, legal, and health consequences that result from abusing drugs.

Arming yourself with reliable information about addiction, treatment, and the pros and cons of getting help will help you make the most informed decision concerning what’s best for your addicted loved one, your family, and society in general.

The Cost of Drug Addiction in the U.S.

Aside from the costs of the drugs or alcohol required to maintain an addiction, substance dependence carries a hefty price tag. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1), substance abuse is a $600 billion epidemic in the United States, but every dollar spent on treatment results in a return of up to $7 in savings related to crime, legal costs, and theft. Add to that the savings in terms of personal healthcare costs, and that return is in excess of $12 per dollar spent on treatment.

The Potential Cost of Driving Under the Influence

According to the Centers for Disease Control (2), around 30 people die in the U.S. every day at the hands of an impaired driver, and the annual cost of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes exceeds $59 billion. The cost of a DUI varies by state, but according to the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles (3), the average cost to an individual found guilty of a first-time offense of driving under the influence is $24,265, including:

  • Fines
  • Fees
  • Insurance rate hikes
  • Mandatory treatment and other interventions
  • Loss of income
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Healthcare Costs Associated with Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Drug and alcohol addiction takes a serious toll on both physical and mental health. The Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (4) reports that 58 percent of the costs associated with substance abuse are attributed to health care spending, amounting to over $216 billion in 2005. Only two percent of that amount is directed toward treatment, with the remaining 98 percent covering the cost of treating health problems stemming from substance abuse.

Incarceration Costs for Drug Offenders

Drug offenders account for 48.6 percent of the U.S. prison population, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (5), and as of June 2015, the number of incarcerated drug offenders was 95,165.

The estimated annual cost of incarceration for each prisoner is $24,000, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1), while a year’s worth of methadone maintenance for opiate addiction, for example, costs about $4,700 per individual. Aside from monetary considerations, the personal price associated with incarceration is devastating to individuals and their families.

The Cost of Addiction: The Bottom Line

The costs of addiction include loss of productivity, life satisfaction, and income due to unemployment; healthcare costs and the potential loss of life due to overdose, illness, and disease; expensive legal problems; and the multitude of negative effects one’s addiction has on his children and other loved ones.

Can You Afford Not to Seek Treatment?

Helping your loved one get the help he needs to beat a drug or alcohol addiction can transform his life and restore a promising future. While drug or alcohol treatment can be expensive, most insurance policies cover at least part of the cost of rehab, and according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (6), the American Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, counts substance abuse disorders among the ten essential health benefits.

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To that end, all insurance policies sold through the Health Insurance Exchanges are required to cover substance abuse services, ensuring that more people have access to treatment.

There are a number of ways to help ensure that treatment will be a viable and affordable option for your loved one. Please contact Destination Hope today to discuss your needs and concerns with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate staff members.


  1. Is drug addiction treatment worth its cost?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Updated December, 2012,
  2. Impaired Driving: Get the Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Updated May 19, 2015,
  3. DUI Consequences & Alternatives, State of Alaska Department of Administration Division of Motor Vehicles,
  4. Inmate Statistics: Offenses, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Updated June 27, 2015,

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