Unforeseen Benefits: Addiction Treatment Reduces Health Care Costs

Addiction is a pervasive yet treatable chronic health condition. Often it occurs alongside other chronic diseases. If untreated, the addicted person's medical care becomes more costly due to secondary health conditions. When treated, addiction leads to better health care outcomes.

This paper demonstrates how addiction treatment will contribute to containing costs in reforming America's health system. Studies show that addiction treatment significantly reduces emergency room, inpatient and total health care costs.

While the overall cost savings have not been documented, there are clear signs of the potential for savings. For example:

  • One out of every 14 hospital stays—2.3 million stays—was related to substance disorders in 2004, a federal study found.
  • Total medical costs were reduced 26 percent among one group of patients that received addiction treatment.
  • A group of at-risk alcohol users who received brief counseling recorded 20 percent fewer emergency department visits and 37 percent fewer days of hospitalization.