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The Cost of Addiction vs Treatment

The cost of addiction in the U.S. is a staggering number in the billions. The amount of money spent on all aspects of addiction totals more than $800 billion. 

The cost of addiction to families may not be measured in dollars, but it can be measured in time, effort, support, and love.

Let’s take a look at where the bulk of addiction costs are spent: medical costs, work productivity, unemployment, homelessness, domestic and child abuse, divorce, and legal issues.

 The Cost of Addiction

Tobacco costs the U.S. about $300 billion a year. About $170 billion is spent on medical costs, and $156 billion is spent in lost productivity because of the effects of secondhand smoke and death.

Alcohol costs the country about $249 billion; $191 billion of that is costs related to binge drinking and its effects, such as medical care, legal issues, and accidents.

Illicit drug use: About $193 billion

Prescription drug abuse: $78.5 billion

Those are just the monetary costs of addiction. Addiction costs society in other ways. The spread of disease, overdose deaths, and related costs, the effects on unborn children, unemployment, domestic abuse, and homelessness are several other ways that addiction costs the nation and society.

Addiction costs the workplace in time missed from work due to incarceration, hospitalization, premature death, and time spent in treatment programs. It increases the workload for those who are not struggling with addiction.

Each state spends a different amount on addiction, treatment, and prevention. To find out how much a specific state spends, the Center for Addiction provides an interactive map.

The real cost of addiction, though, is how much it affects the people who know the person with a substance use disorder. Families struggle with addiction in many ways from the physical and mental health issues the addicted person has to the loss of savings spent on treatment programs, which may provide short or long-term sobriety. If their loved one loses their life to an overdose, there is no way to assess the cost of grief.

The Cost of Addiction Treatment

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Drug addiction treatment has been shown to reduce associated health and social costs by far more than the cost of the treatment itself.”

Throughout the past few decades, addiction treatment has improved for people who enter it. It is no longer a place to just detox from the substance of abuse. New criteria have defined and guidelines outlined and set for every respected and certified substance use treatment center.

Keep these things in mind when considering the cost of treatment:

The cost of addiction treatment varies depending on location, private versus public treatment centers, type and length of treatment someone receives, whether someone is insured or not, and the type of insurance the person has.

Treatment programs that are operated by state or federal agencies, such as the Veterans Administration, usually average around $3,800 a month. Private facilities average around $7,500 on the low side, to the tens of thousands for higher-end treatment centers. Some luxury treatment centers, which tend to cater to celebrities, professional athletes, and other high-end people, can cost somewhere from $80,000 up to $150,000 per month.

An inpatient or residential treatment program is going to cost more than an outpatient program because someone will stay in the facility throughout their addiction treatment.

Person using a calculator

Residential treatment programs also need to have medical staff on duty Outpatient programs allow the person the opportunity to stay at home and commute to the center several times per week for therapy.

The cost also depends on how long the addiction treatment program lasts. The longer the program; the more it will cost. Additionally, the more amenities offered at the treatment center; the more it will cost.

Another factor to consider about the cost of treatment: location, location, location. The better the location; the more it will cost. A luxury resort-style treatment center located near the ocean will cost more than a center located within or on the outskirts of a city.

If someone does not have health insurance or has very limited funds, there are addiction treatment programs specifically for people in these financial situations.

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The Difference Between Cost of Addiction Vs. Treatment

If more than $800 billion is spent on addiction, and the most expensive treatment can run in the hundreds of thousands, it makes sense that someone with a substance use disorder would seek or be placed in an addiction treatment program. As addiction is a chronic brain disease, it may take more than one time in an addiction treatment before someone can abstain from substance use permanently.

Addiction is expensive, starting with the cost of the substance abused to the money spent on education, prevention, health care, mental health care, and legal expenses.

To be honest, though, the real cost of addiction is when a loved one dies from an overdose. There is no monetary value attached to the love lost. No amount of money can replace that person.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. Trends & Statistics. Costs of Substance Abuse. from

VeryWellMind. The Costs of Drug Use to Society. Buddy T. September 16, 2019. from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition) Is drug addiction treatment worth its cost? January 2018. from

VeryWellMind. The Costs of Alcohol and Drug Treatment. Buddy T., July 1, 2019. from

Center on Addiction. State Spending On Addiction and Substance Abuse. April 2017. from

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