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Colorado Drug Rehab Cost

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Is Drug Addiction Treatment Worth Its Cost?

This question was address in the previous question on the actual cost of attending a treatment program, but it is worth further attention since there are many people who believe that alcohol and drug residential treatment are too expensive for programs that are usually not effective in handling the addiction problem.

Unfortunately, there has been years of ineffective alcohol and drug treatment being sold to the U.S. public.  Once health insurance started covering some or all of the cost of treatment, for-profit treatment centers couldn’t be built fast enough.  This wasn’t to meet the need for ending addiction, but, as is the case too many times in our health care system, they were a “cash-cow” for their investors. 

In the rush to meet the treatment needs in the country, treatment centers were developed without enough attention being paid to effectiveness.  Therefore, today we have many who have lost faith that there are treatment programs that work. 

In answering whether an ineffective treatment program is worth its cost, you just need to consider the pain and suffering that accompanies addiction and you know that any treatment program that doesn’t have successful outcomes in at least half of its graduates is a gamble that is entirely too expensive.

On the other hand, when you witness the value of effective treatment in the amount of personal growth and future productivity, you can easily arrive at the point cost is of little importance and shouldn’t be a limiting factor in keeping someone from freeing themselves from addiction. 

According to the United Nations, drug trafficking is about $400 billion a year, or 8% of the international trade.  The health and social cost of the consequences of illegal use of drugs in the U.S. is estimated to be $67 billion/year.  Consider these figures as well as the impact of drug-related deaths, the consequences of drug driving, birth defects related to alcohol and drug use, drug-related emergency room cost and the fact that one in 144 persons in the U.S. adult prison population is incarcerated because of drug-related charges and you will quickly come to the reality that treatment cost are the least of the monetary expenses related to alcohol and drug addiction. 

Anyone in the alcohol and drug counseling field has seen many family’s savings decimated by having one addict in the family.  It isn’t unusual to hear parents tell of spending over $100,000 on treatment and legal cost in combating the addiction in a loved one.  There are many in our society that refuse any further help because of the waste of spending their money on ineffective treatment.  So the question should be is “effective treatment worth its cost?” in which case the answer is a resounding, YES. 

If you and your family are facing the financial crisis of providing alcohol and drug treatment to a family member and they aren't covered by health insurance, then you are facing a major barrier which may cause your loved one to get inferior and and ineffective treatment.

The average cost of a long-term treatment program is around $30K. Most families are not able to confront these types of cost and they then start looking at programs that are subsidized by the state of other charitable organizations, like Salvation Army.Documented research shows that for every $100,000 spent on alcohol and drug treatment, $487,000 of health care cost and $700,000 of crime cost are avoided.   So, it makes good public policy to fund publically supported treatment. However, this is a very political decision and funding the services to members of society that are felt to be a "criminal element" doesn't get top priority, even when the stats are as described.

A study in Caliornia looking at the utilization savings in health care after addiction treatment showed:

  • Emergency Room Visits were reduced by 39%
  • Hospital stay reduced by 35%
  • Overall total medical cost reduced by 26%

Other studies have shown that employees who are sent to alcohol and drug treatment have:

  • Lowered on-the-job injuries
  • Fewer mistakes,
  • 75% reduction in disagreements with their supervisors, and
  • Reduced tardiness or absenteeism

Even though the statisitcs speak for themselves, there is always a sentiment against providing public funds to support alcohol and drug treatment. Many people feel that it is money-down-the-drain since they believe that treatment doesn't work, which the above stats and many more support just the opposite as being true.

The Division of Behavioral Health Colorado Department of Human Services submitted the following report on October 31, 2009.

"The Costs and Effectiveness of Substance Use Disorder Programs in the State of Colorado

Here are the highlights of their report and, at the end, you will find comments by Colorado Drug Rehab staff. (Some editorial comments in parenthesis)

(This page is still under development. We will be adding materials that further document the value of alcohol and drug rehab.)

The opening page of the report is as follows:

Addiction begins with casual use.
The consequences of alcohol misuse and illicit drugs are the single greatest drain on state budgets.

(Excerpt from Blueprint for the States: Policies to Improve the Ways States Organize and Deliver Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Treatment, Findings and Recommendations of a National Policy Panel, by Join Together, 2006)

Researchers say addiction may require lifelong management. Addiction shares many characteristics with other major chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and asthma. For example:
•Genetics play a role • The medica limpact on the body is significant • Complications develop if the disease is untreated • Self-care is critical to success •Medication can help.

(Excerpt from McLellan, Thomas A., and David Lewis, Charles O’Brien, and Herbert Kleber. “Drug Dependence, a Chronic Medical Illness: Implications for Treatment, Insurance, and Outcome Evaluation.” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 284, no.13 (October 4, 2000) 1689-1695.

Addiction fits the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition for chronic disorders.

They are prolonged, lasting for at least 3 months, do not resolve spontaneously, and are rarely cured completely. Even so, addiction treatment is less available than treatment for other disease.
(Excerpt from Unforeseen Benefits: Addiction Treatment Reduces Health Care Costs, Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap, by Open Society Institute, July 2009.)

The Executive Summary states the following:

Substance use disorders in the State of Colorado are a significant health, social, public safety and economic problem. Prevention and treatment are crucial public safety measures.

• Substance use disorders continue to be a problem in Colorado, although rates of use have declined since 1979 because of prevention, treatment and enforcement.

• Prevention and treatment are effective in reducing the amount of substance use disorders in Colorado. A substance use disorder is a preventable behavior and addiction is a treatable disease.

• It is more economical to prevent or treat a substance use disorder than to deal with its impact on the individual or society.

• Resources to provide substance use disorder prevention and treatment are limited; the problem far outpaces the resources.

• Incarceration alone is an ineffective and costly way to control drugs.

• Treatment not only saves lives, it saves money.

The Summary of the Treatment Outcomes is as follows:

• Clients and their addiction counselors work together to develop individualized treatment plans, which identify goals clients wish to obtain from their treatment. At time of discharge, counselors and clients assess progress made toward these goals. Sixty-one percent of clients discharged from substance abuse treatment had moderate to high achievement of treatment goals.

• Perhaps the most critical measure of substance abuse treatment success is the change in frequency of drug use from admission to discharge. In FY09, there was a decline from 48% to 19% (admission to discharge) in the proportion of all treatment clients reporting any substance use in the previous 30 days.

* Comment: (This is including outpatient rehab as well, but it is our contention that clients in a program should have close to 0% [Admission to discharge] substance use. We have programs that can document less that 19% substance use level post-discharge)

• Overall the severity of problems or issues with family, socialization, employment or school and medical or physical problems was reduced at discharge.

• Decreases in DUI/DWAI and other arrests.

• Decreases in medical hospital visits and medical emergency room visits. Clients with one or more psychiatric emergency room visits and one or more psychiatric hospital admissions in the prior 6 months decreased from admission to discharge.

• Decreases in medical hospital visits and medical emergency room visits. Clients with one or more psychiatric emergency room visits and one or more psychiatric hospital admissions in the prior 6 months decreased from admission to discharge.

Editorial Comment:

This report is based on programs that continue to accept the premise that addiction is a "disease". If you look at the outcomes, you will see that they are far from what one would expect from most other diseases. We contend that this model of treatment has been proven to be ineffective and costly, both in dollars, lives and causing the public to believe that "nothing can be done to help". It is unusual for us to talk to individuals that have 5 to 10 previous treatment failures. These people have been convinced that their problem is the result of a chronic and progressive disease and they will continue to live a life of relapse. Needless to say, when they do an effective rehab, they feel that they have been "born again" and their thankfulness is a benefit to everyone.

Admittedly, there are some points that are certainly worth attention, but Colorado Drug Rehab staff are aware of programs that end this "disease" and the consequences are much greater than what is quoted by this state report.


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Contact Colorado Drug Rehab, helps you make decisions on a drug rehab treatment center as well as helping your get the best alcohol and drug assessments and evaluations. We are Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors that have reviewed over 150 rehab centers, on site, and performed more than 500 alcohol and drug assessments and evaluations, and can share our experiences and help you find the best program or get a fair and honest alcohol or drug assessment to help you with legal issues or help you find what level of treatment or rehab is most appropriate!