Generally, a person who struggles with alcohol or drug addiction must detox before they begin the intensive process of therapy to overcome the psychological aspects of addiction. Detox means going through withdrawal in order to end the body’s dependence on a substance of abuse.
Detox is a necessary stage in the longer journey of addiction recovery, and the costs associated with medical detox can be high. Detox programs, like rehabilitation programs, can be either inpatient or outpatient; the amount of medical oversight an individual needs, along with the amount of time they spend in the detox program, will help to determine the overall cost.
Various factors affect the cost of detox, such as the specific services provided and whether or not medications are used. Some drugs have maintenance therapies that made the withdrawal process easier, such as buprenorphine for opioid withdrawal, while withdrawal from other substances may involve mild medication management to treat symptoms as needed. In some instances, supervising doctors may prescribe small doses of over-the-counter pain medicines or antidepressants to ease some of the symptoms.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a nationwide survey conducted in 2013 found that there were 11,542 outpatient rehabilitation facilities in the United States, 3,450 residential rehabilitation programs, and 753 hospital-specific programs. Of these, very few offered detox along with the rehabilitation program. About 660 hospitals offered detox while only 861 residential or inpatient rehabilitation programs offered detox, and only 1,362 detox programs were available via outpatient rehabilitation facilities. For the most part, people who need to detox must find a program separate from their rehabilitation program, and this can add to the overall cost of treatment.
Fortunately, there are many kinds of drug and alcohol detox programs, just like there are rehabilitation options, and there is an array of ways to pay for detox.
Payment options vary from program to program but can include:
- Private insurance
- Private payment
- Payment plans or installments
- Medicaid or Medicare
- State or government financing
- Charity-based or free programs
Before entering a detox program, find out about the financial aspect of care and make sure it suits the available resources. For example, if the person needing detox is on Medicaid, ensure the program accepts this form of insurance. A social worker or case manager at a hospital can be a good resource to navigate the ins and outs of payment.
Outpatient vs. Inpatient Detox
Staying in a specific facility, with 24/7 access to trained medical staff, will increase the cost of detox, and the amount of time a person spends in the detox program will also increase the cost.
Here is a comparison of outpatient and inpatient detox programs:
- Outpatient: The overall cost does not include costs associated with travel to the program, nor does it include the cost of time off work, meals, or residence other than the individual’s existing home. Treatment is less rigorous than with inpatient treatment. The average person in outpatient detox stays for 6.5 days or about a week, which is the standard amount of time it takes for most people to get through the most intense withdrawal symptoms. The range for treatment duration is 5-14 days.
- Inpatient: The cost of meals, housing, medications, supervision, and laundry services are all included in the price, which is part of what makes this type of detox more expensive. Generally, people who enter inpatient detox programs need more medical supervision due to chronic illnesses or serious side effects, and they typically stay longer – nine days, or just over one week, on average.
While people concerned about cost may initially prefer an outpatient detox program, this type of detox is not appropriate for people who may have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as those undergoing alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal. Inpatient programs are better for this group and greatly improve long-term outcomes. Consult a doctor about the best detox option for the particular situation at hand.
Most states and cities measure the cost of detox in daily or weekly costs. This scale can range based on the cost of living in an area but not greatly. One report in The New York Times noted that the state paid $100 per day on average for outpatient detox treatment involving medical supervision and $400 per day for similar inpatient treatment. When medications were prescribed, that number skyrocketed to $1,300 per day for medically managed detox, involving drugs like buprenorphine. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) published a report in 2008, noting that non-methadone outpatient detox averaged between $1,000 and $5,000 per person per week (between $19 and $96 per day); average costs for adult residential or inpatient detox treatment were believed to range from $3,000 to $8,000 per week.
The cost will vary depending on what type of facility a person enters too. Private detox programs can cost up to $7,000 per week, while Medicaid may cover the cost of detox in a public hospital for a person who is economically disadvantaged. One full year of methadone maintenance can cost $4,700 per person, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). People who enter methadone maintenance programs often stay in these detox programs for several years due to severe heroin or narcotic abuse; CSAT proposes up to 150 weeks for methadone treatment.
Insurance may cover some costs, especially if prescription medicines are involved. If a person is unemployed or experiencing extreme financial difficulty, they may be able to find free or low-cost government programs or detox assistance via a charity.
Help with Detox Is Key to Success
Regardless of cost, medical detox and a comprehensive program make up the ideal path to overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, people who struggle with these conditions may not be able to research this information on their own or manage resources effectively.
Enlist the help of friends and family to assemble funds, if necessary, and to find treatment options that will work best for the financial situation. Consult a doctor, social worker, or case manager to get further information on costs, duration of treatment, and additional resources. Oftentimes, detox and rehabilitation programs have dedicated staff members who will liaison with insurance companies and help clients to understand and manage the financial aspect of treatment.