The Effect of Healthcare on Addiction
of the most eye-opening experiences I participated in during my
undergraduate education was working in an in-patient rehabilitation
center for individuals with substance use disorder. As a research
assistant, I would see patients pay hundreds to thousands of dollars
per day for their addiction treatment. Every day I saw patients that
left treatment prematurely solely due to their inability to pay for
the care they desperately needed. The problem I observed was that the
current healthcare system does not always allow patients who need
care to receive it, and this has contributed to the addiction crisis
that we are currently in.
one, saying that addiction treatment is expensive is an
understatement. According to Addiction Center, out-patient
rehabilitation can cost anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 (Addiction
doable for some, this option is only recommended for mild to moderate
forms of addiction (Addiction Center, 2020), as it has a higher rate
of relapse compared to in-patient treatment. Although in-patient
treatment limits distractions and is intended for more severe forms
of substance use disorder, it can cost up to $50,000 more for only
60-90 days in treatment (Addiction Center, 2020).This does not even
account for relapse, which occurs in about 40-60% of cases (National
Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). Consequently, these patients must
cover the cost of treatment multiple times, easily spending hundreds
of thousands of dollars to do so.
addition to the cost of actual treatment, many substance use disorder
patients must pay for a variety of additional services. For most
out-patient and some in-patient programs, the price of detox is not
included. This amounts to $1,000-$1,500 additional cost (Addiction
Center, 2020). Furthermore, some addictions may require other
medications for patients to stay in check. In the case of opioid use
disorder, one year of methadone treatment alone costs over $4,500
(Addiction Center, 2020). Those who have the most severe forms of
substance use disorder and do not have insurance to cover the cost of
treatment are usually simply unable to get the treatment they need,
worsening the addiction crisis.
having insurance can help, it does not always solve the problem. For
example, some insurance companies only cover substance use disorder
treatment for three weeks despite a suggested length of stay of up to
six weeks in in-patient care along with extended out-patient
programming (Allen, 2015). The coverage can start from the time detox
begins, leaving the patient with only a few days in the actual
rehabilitation facility (Allen, 2015). From my personal experience,
there were patients who were only able to stay for eight days before
they were forced to start paying out of pocket. Although doctors
insisted on them staying for 60-90 days, patients often had to leave
early because they could no longer afford to stay and their insurance
companies would no longer help them. The worst part was that in a few
months, we would end up seeing them again because they had relapsed
due to the inadequate care they received the first time around.
adequate access to health care is a problem in many sectors of
medicine. Addiction treatment is no exception. The cost of substance
use disorder programming is too high, while insurance coverage for it
is too low. Preventative measures should be emphasized to minimize
the number of new people suffering from addiction. However, for those
who are already impacted by this disorder, more cost–effective
programs need to be established. Additionally, getting insurance
companies to cover a person’s entire recommended length of stay is
a must. Taking these steps will allow for more effective addiction
treatment, ultimately cutting down an individual’s cost. It will
also allow those who could not previously afford the cost of
treatment to receive help. Unfortunately, substance use disorder is a
disease that can impact anyone, no matter their socioeconomic status.
Therefore, adequate treatment should be something anyone can afford;
only then will we see the end of the current addiction crisis.
Center. (2020). Cost of Drug and Alcohol Rehab. Retrieved from
on April 7, 2020.
B. (Host). (2015, August 16). When Rehab Might Help An Addict — But
Insurance Won’t Cover It. [Radio broadcast episode].
Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2018, July 20). Drugs, Brains, and
Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved from
on 2020, April 7.