The Cost of Substance Abuse and Addiction

In 2004, approximately 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older needed treatment for substance abuse and addiction. Of these, only 3.8 million people received it. (NSDUH 2004)  This means that a staggering 83 percent of those requiring either structured inpatient drug treatment, or outpatient therapy did not get the help that they needed.  Addiction is a biological disorder that often requires a multimodal treatment approach in order to be effective.  Roughly 19 million Americans in 2004 either chose not to seek help for these types of problems, did not know where or how to obtain help, or perhaps felt that their ‘problems’ were unsolvable. 

The value of entering treatment with a therapist experienced in treating addiction is that he or she can help the substance abusing patient to cope with stress more effectively.  This therapeutic goal serves several purposes.  Shoring up one’s coping skills can help reduce one’s need to self medicate with substances, and can also help to make emotional issues that once seemed insurmountable, become easier to handle.  The cost of NOT effectively treating substance abuse wreaks havoc upon each substance abusing individual’s life, as well as upon our country on the whole.

Untreated substance abuse and addiction add significant costs, emotional and monetary, to families and communities.  Substance absusers are much more likely than non substance abusers to engage in violent crimes and property defacement leading to legal trouble.  There is also much higher incidence of emergency room visits, healthcare utilization, child abuse and neglect, lost child support, foster care and welfare costs, reduced productivity, and unemployment, among the substance abusing population, relative to the non substance abusing population.

The latest estimate for the costs to society of illicit drug abuse alone is $181 billion (2002). When combined with alcohol and tobacco costs, they exceed $500 billion including healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity. Successful drug abuse treatment can help reduce this cost; crime; and the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on addiction treatment programs, there is a $4 to $7 reduction in the cost of drug-related crimes. With some outpatient programs, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12:1!

In short, receiving treatment for one’s substance abuse and addiciton problems is not only a sensible decison with respect to one’s physical and mental health, but also a sound financial decsion! Treatment for one’s substance abuse can serve as an important investment that can save a patient untold financial and emotional costs in their future, and can help one to lead a far more productive and healthful life.

Dr. Maloff specializes in the outpatient treatment of substance abuse and addiction disorders.  For more information call (310) 712-5480

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