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Best Ways to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment

Millions of people in the United States are impacted by substance abuse or addiction every year, but getting treatment can seem daunting, in part due to the assumed cost. Fortunately, there are several options for paying for treatment now, including health insurance coverage, bank loans for medical costs, and even free or low-cost treatment subsidized by a charity, nonprofit, or government agency.

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The Cost of Substance Abuse Treatment in the United States

As many as 10 percent of adults in the United States report having a substance use disorder of some type. This means more than 23 million American adults have some form of problematic use of a substance like alcohol, opioids, other prescription drugs, or other illicit drugs.

Many of these individuals reported having a co-occurring mental health problem like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders, which can make it more difficult to manage an addiction. However, in 2015, 75 percent of these individuals reported not receiving any type of treatment for their substance abuse, mental health, or both.

A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 14 percent of adults who reported a substance use disorder in the prior year received treatment. Only about 25 percent of those who reported ever struggling with substance abuse received treatment.

One of the reasons many people do not get the treatment they need is fear of how much it will cost. Luxury treatment programs have become famous for their beautiful locations and amenities, long stays, and large price tags. Without understanding the landscape of available treatment options, many people may assume that they cannot afford help, so they feel too despondent to seek it.

Fortunately, there are many options for evidence-based treatment, including ways to mix and match programs like detox, residential rehabilitation, or outpatient therapy to get the best help for you. Paying for substance abuse treatment is also becoming simpler.

The Best Ways to Cover the Cost of Substance Abuse Rehabilitation

You do not have to start a GoFundMe just to cover addiction treatment. There are options available that can get you the best treatment in your area.

  • Health insurance: Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurers have been legally obligated to provide some level of coverage for mental, behavioral, and substance use treatment services. These benefits vary by company and the state you reside in, so using your local health insurance marketplace and reading your insurance coverage information can help you understand how best to apply these benefits.Additionally, if you have received mental, behavioral, or substance abuse treatment services in the past, no insurance company can deny you coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
  • Lenders: Although the ACA requires health insurers to provide access to addiction treatment, your health insurance plan may not cover the exact treatment you need, cover your entire stay, or cover the entire cost. For example, detox and some days with an outpatient program may be covered, but if you need inpatient treatment, you may need additional financing.Rather than spend your savings or ask loved ones for financial support, you can get help with an addiction treatment-specific lender. These are some of these programs:
    • Prosper: This is healthcare financing with a low interest rate. It can cover addiction treatment, with fixed monthly payments.
    • LightStream: A division of SunTrust Bank, this program provides medical financing based on your credit. You can get between $10,000 and $24,000, and use their website to calculate your monthly payment before agreeing to a loan.
  • Sliding scale, low cost, or free: Although many treatment programs require some form of payment, the original approach to addiction treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous, has always been free. This international organization essentially created support groups and a program for overcoming substance abuse. Many rehabilitation programs use the support group model with behavioral therapy.Other programs have since evolved to provide free or low-cost detox facilities and outpatient or partially residential treatment for those in need. For example, the Salvation Army provides no-fee rehabilitation programs in cities and towns across the United States.

Reportedly, substance abuse costs the US $600 billion every year. Effective addiction treatment reduces this cost significantly and improves quality of life for those who overcome addiction and their loved ones as well. For every $1 allocated toward addiction treatment programs, there is a projected $4 to $7 reduction in expenses related to crime, criminal justice, and theft.

Get Help Overcoming Substance Abuse

Although it is possible to stop using intoxicating substances, the risk of relapse is higher without support from medical professionals, including therapists. Detoxing from a substance can be especially difficult without medical support, as withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and trigger relapse back into substance abuse.

However, detox and rehabilitation do not need to take place in a facility. There are more and more options for getting safe and effective outpatient treatment with a physician, through a nonprofit, or through a government program than ever before. These programs mean you do not need to take months away from work or your family to access evidence-based care.

However, inpatient treatment is still a valuable option for many people, especially those who have environmental stressors or emotional associations in their surroundings that could trigger them to relapse back into certain patterns of substance abuse. Moving away from these can be crucial to ending addiction.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated May 1, 2023
  1. 10 Percent of US Adults Have Drug Use Disorder at Some Point in Their Lives. (November 2015). National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  2. Mental Health & Substance Abuse Coverage.
  3. Homepage. Prosper.
  4. Medical Financing. LightStream.
  5. Homepage. AA.
  6. Rehabilitation. The Salvation Army.
  7. Is Drug Addiction Treatment Worth the Cost? (January 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  8. Types of Treatment Programs. (January 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
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