Detox Programs: What They Cost and How to Pay
Detoxification treatment can be an expensive process, with costs depending largely on the specific treatment program desired. Many programs include room and board, 24-hour supervision from trained staff, medical care from a team of nurses and doctors, and medications to alleviate discomfort and reduce withdrawal symptom severity.
With all this, the total cost of detox can rise into the thousands of dollars. While this can be a considerable expense, it’s still less costly than continued drug use, both in the cost of the acquiring drugs and the numerous costs to your health and well-being (and those that love you).
While the cost of detox is something to consider, it should not be the only deciding factor in whether to quit using. There are so many ways to pay for treatment. There are often options which will lower the cost of treatment or allow you to pay over a period of time so that you can make smaller, more manageable payments. Detox can be affordable when you explore your options for managing the cost.
How Much Does Detox Cost?
All detox programs have the goal of safely ending your dependence on drugs and alcohol, but the monetary cost of detoxification programs, like all addiction treatments, can vary widely based on a number of factors. The primary factor driving cost is the intensity of services. Generally, intensive services like inpatient medical detox programs require many highly-trained staff members to be successful, which equates to higher costs to the patient.1 Detox services may vary in terms of the level of care that is provided and in the settings in which they take place:2
- Medically managed or medically monitored inpatient detox.
- Clinically managed residential detox.
- Outpatient detox with or without extended monitoring.
Medically managed and medically monitored detoxes are the most intensive and usually the most expensive.2 Medical detox protocols may be instituted in a psychiatric hospital or standalone detox center and often include the administration of medications to ease the discomfort and mitigate the potential risks of the withdrawal process.2
These services require staying at the hospital or treatment center for the duration of withdrawal. While at the center, the detoxing person receives 24-hour supervision and care from a team of medical professionals.2
Compared with medically monitored inpatient detox, some residential settings offer much less medical oversight throughout the detox process. In some cases, clinically managed residential detox programs utilize a nonmedical, or “social” detox approach to care. Rather than prescribing medications to help manage the detox process, addiction professionals offer emotional support and boost motivation to get through withdrawal and move forward into treatment.2 This option is great for those who need the 24-hour supervision and support but not the medical interventions of medical detox programs. Clinically managed detox is typically a more affordable option than medically managed detox, but it is not always an appropriate option. Certain withdrawal syndromes, like benzodiazepine withdrawal, will necessitate medical detox because of the potential severity of symptoms and risks involved. Clinically managed detox programs should have some protocol for how to initiate medical care in the case that intervention becomes necessary, especially in the case of emergencies.
Outpatient detox is another option for individuals who don’t need the 24-hour medical care or supervision of a live-in facility. Again, this type of care won’t be appropriate for every person, but if your doctor gives the okay, it can be an affordable and flexible way to begin your recovery. Outpatient detox allows for you to safely withdraw from drugs while continuing to live at home and maintain your outside roles and responsibilities including work and parenting during treatment. When you consider the potential costs of losing work time and covering childcare, this type of treatment could be significantly less expensive than other forms of detox. Unlike inpatient or residential programs, the lack of round-the-clock supervision and support could be problematic for some people and might increase their risk of relapse. In the case that it becomes clear that this level of detox isn’t intensive enough, or if a medical emergency arises, the program should link you to a higher level of care or to appropriate medical treatment.
Some outpatient detoxes offer extended monitoring in the form of day programs, while others will only monitor withdrawal progress through regularly scheduled office appointments or visits from a home health agency.2
Apart from treatment intensity, another major factor driving cost is treatment duration.1 Although shorter programs may cost more per day, the overall fee will generally be lower for the complete course of treatment than long-term detox programs or programs that include detox followed by a long-term residential placement. It might be tempting to seek only detox in order to limit your cost, but consider this: per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, programs lasting less than 90 days are of “limited effectiveness” and longer durations are recommended for better outcomes.3 So keep this in mind when the cost of continuing your treatment seems too high; if it keeps you clean, it’s worth it.
Some providers offer an option called “ultrarapid detox” which utilizes general anesthesia and medications in an attempt to detox your body quickly while you’re unconscious. This option may seem like a good one but it is not linked to longer periods of abstinence nor is it considered an easier option than other medication-assisted detoxes that don’t involve general anesthesia.2,4 Consider also that any time general anesthesia is involved in a medical procedure, there are some serious risks. So while the cost may be lower and the thought of sleeping through detox appealing, there are many dangers to consider, especially for those with preexisting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and certain psychological conditions such as bipolar disorder.4
Detox prices are based not just on the type or duration of treatment but also on the treatment location.1 A private facility located in a desirable environment will be much more expensive than other treatment centers. People may seek out a location based on the scenery, climate, convenience, or distance away from their home.
Some other aspects of addiction treatment affecting costs include:1
- Range of services offered. Providing diverse services, like yoga, equine therapy and other complementary and alternative treatments, increases the costs.
- Types of problems addressed. More complex treatment issues like polysubstance abuse or co-occurring addiction and mental health concerns will necessitate a higher level of care and higher fees.
Payment Options Available
]The financial cost of treatment is never as great as the physical and mental cost of addiction. The cost of detoxification treatment might seem shocking, but there are several viable options to ease the burden. Just remember that the financial cost of treatment is never as great as the physical and mental cost of addiction.
Insurance for Detox
When you begin exploring ways to pay for detox treatment, your first step will likely be to find out how much of your private or government health insurance will cover. Addiction treatment is generally a part of the existing healthcare insurance plan for many policies, and it can significantly lower the total cost to you. If you have questions, you may call your insurance company to speak with someone who can provide more information about which treatment facilities and/or programs are covered by your plan. If you have a specific program in mind, you can also call the program and ask them to help you determine whether your insurance is accepted and what your estimated out of pocket cost might be.
Do keep in mind that while insurance coverage can greatly lower the cost of detox and treatment, it can also limit the available treatment options. Finding a facility that’s covered by your insurance and that offers the kind of detox you need can take some time and effort, especially when the available facilities may not have an immediate opening for new patients. Fortunately, most insurance plans cover treatment at a large enough number of facilities to ensure that a little searching will allow you to find an appropriate fit.
If you currently lack medical insurance, explore ways to gain coverage by contacting your local area resources or searching online through the health insurance marketplace. The landscape of insurance is currently shifting, but helpful and affordable insurance options are still available to help you find the care you need to leave addiction behind.
Private Pay, Loans, and More
Another detox payment option is private pay. With private pay, the patient pays the full cost of treatment. While the program length can vary according to the individual patient’s detox needs, the treatment facilities are experienced enough in determining possible treatment lengths to make an accurate assessment of program costs before beginning treatment, so you shouldn’t be surprised by any costs at the end of your care. Private pay covers all program costs, including medications.
There are many ways to alleviate the burden of a large treatment bill. These include loans, healthcare credit cards, or special financing plans from the treatment center or a financial institution. Under any of these payment plans, the facility charges the patient the full amount, but the person makes payments over a period of time. This allows for individuals who don’t have the immediate financial resources the opportunity to get the necessary help.
When the patient cannot afford the full amount, the facility may offer detox for a price less than what is normally charged. The detox center may charge for services on a sliding scale, meaning the final cost of treatment will be calculated according to the patient’s income, expenses, and treatment needs. This reduced price is then paid in full as an upfront payment or over an extended period in equal partial payments.
There is also the option of using crowdfunding sites to ask loved ones for help getting addiction treatment. Starting a fundraising page gives you the opportunity to let those who care about you and are personally invested in your recovery the chance to help you get there by contributing financially to your treatment.
Finding a treatment facility in which you can afford the cost of detox and continuing care can be time-consuming. To cut down the search time tremendously and get your treatment started as quickly as possible, call for help today.
Is Detox Really Necessary?
You might be confused about your need for detox. Maybe you don’t really see your substance use as a problem at all or think you can just stop using without assistance.
If you’re unsure whether you really need help during withdrawal, you might ask yourself questions like:
- Do I continue using to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal?
- Do I have physical pain when I cut back or stop?
- Do I experience psychological distress when I’m unable to use?
- Do I have chronic medical conditions or co-occurring mental health disorders that will make withdrawal potentially more challenging?
- Have I ever had thoughts of harming myself or others when I try to quit?
- Am I physically dependent on alcohol, benzos, sedatives, or opioids?
Answering “yes” to any of these questions indicates you might need treatment to safely stop using. Answering “yes” to the last question indicates a need for medical detox, as the withdrawal syndromes associated with alcohol, sedative, and opioid dependence can be quite severe.
When assessing someone for detox, addiction and medical professions gather information about your:2
- Current level of drug use including:
- Type or types of drugs used.
- Frequency and intensity of use.
- Duration of use.
- Previous attempts to quit use.
- Medical and mental health conditions.
- Financial, housing, and legal stressors
- Available social supports in your life.
This information about the severity of your addiction, drug tolerance, and physical dependence helps to complete a picture of your overall well-being, as well as the risks and benefits of detox treatment. Not every person abusing alcohol or other drugs will need a formalized detox program, but many will require specialized treatment based on their unique situation and current health.
If you have been using large amounts of heroin for years while managing numerous medical and psychological issues with limited supports in your life, an inpatient detox program will likely be a good fit. On the other hand, if you have been using Adderall on occasion over the last month with low stressors and high supports, inpatient detox might not be necessary.
Be careful about making assumptions about the best treatments for you or someone you love. It is both smart and safe to get the advice of a medical professional.
The Potential Cost of Not Getting Help
For many, detox is the best, first step of addiction treatment because the dangers of not getting help are simply too great.3 Ending drug use without professional guidance can be very stressful and possibly result in serious harm.
What makes quitting potentially dangerous is the emergence of withdrawal symptoms that for some users and some substances can be life-threatening. Withdrawal symptoms can begin just hours after your last use and remain for weeks or months.6
Withdrawal symptoms are drug-specific, which means each substance produces its own set of risks:6
- Alcohol withdrawal:
- Higher heart rate and increased blood pressure.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Hallucinations and delusions.
- Generalized seizures.
- Opioid withdrawal:
- Depressed mood.
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
- Sedative (benzodiazepine/ barbiturate) withdrawal:
- Severe anxiety.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Higher blood pressure and pulse rate.
- Grand mal seizures.
Depending on the substance(s) of abuse, some individuals attempting to quit without the professional care offered in detox could experience problems like adverse cardiac events, dehydration, suicide attempts, or a seizure during withdrawal.2 Risks are especially high for those enduring untreated sedative withdrawal (about 30% experience seizures).6
Alcohol, opioids, and sedatives usually require medically managed detox.2 A number of other substances, like marijuana and stimulants, are associated with their own particular withdrawal symptoms, but professionals may be able to manage these with a social detox or outpatient detox approach.
Foregoing necessary detox treatment can not only increase your risk of mental and physical health issues, in some instances it can create a volatile environment impacting those around you. Periods of aggression and delusions during withdrawal can result in violence and aggression towards others in your life.2
Detox treatment also helps to minimize the strong cravings that frequently arise during withdrawal. Someone attempting to detox alone may face intense cravings, which could increase the likelihood of relapse.
Without treatment, you risk losing your job, losing your friends, losing your money, and losing your freedom (i.e. going to jail). Most of all, you risk losing your life. Your life is worth more than any financial cost of a detox program.
- French, M. T., Popovici, I., & Tapsell, L. (2008). The Economic Costs of Substance Abuse Treatment: Updated Estimates and Cost Bands for Program Assessment and Reimbursement. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 35(4), 462–469.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Study Finds Withdrawal No Easier with Ultrarapid Opiate Detox.
- American Addiction Centers. 2017.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.