When the alcohol or other drug dependency of an individual goes untreated, the individual is not the only one who loses.
The United States spends $200 billion a year in medical services, law enforcement, lost productivity, property damage, and insurance claims directly related to alcohol and other drug abuse. The cost of Missourians is estimated at $1.5 billion a year.
Consider the following:
- Three-fourths of the people incarcerated in Missouri have a substance abuse problem and 90 percent of them said they were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time they committed their crimes. It costs, on the average, $25,000 a year to house an inmate. Eighty percent of persons who have tested positive for HIV infection were intravenous drug users or the sexual partners of intravenous drug users. It costs approximately $100,000 a year to treat individuals with HIV who have developed AIDS.
- About a fourth of all costs incurred by law enforcement agencies are related to dealing with alcohol and other drug abuse.
- More than a fourth of all patients in hospitals are being treated for illnesses or injuries related to their abuse of alcohol or other drugs. Add to that the cost in insurance claims and the effect those costs have on insurance rates in general.
- It is estimated that for every dollar spent on treating an individual with a substance abuse problem, approximately $12 in future costs to society are avoided.
- About $2.1 billion is spent each year in the United States to fight alcohol and other drug abuse. Only 25 percent of that amount goes to prevention and treatment.
- It costs about $14,000 to treat an individual for substance abuse for a year. In many cases, outpatient aftercare costs as little as $3,000 per year.
- No treatment program is 100 percent effective. Still, any treatment is better than none. On the average, almost 75 percent of individuals who go through a treatment program remain drug-free six months later and 63 percent are still drug-free one year later.
- Studies further show that employment rates nearly double and crime rates are reduced by 80 percent in the first year among those who have completed treatment. Reductions in family disturbances and psychiatric problems also are reported.
National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. 1990. Treatment Works: The Tragic Cost of Undervaluing Treatment in the "Drug War".
- Only 15 percent of individuals addicted to alcohol or other drugs will receive treatment in the coming year. Part of the reason is money. Expenditures for treatment are less than one percent of the $200 billion price tag for alcohol and other drug abuse.
- Low funding means treatment programs often have waiting lists or that aftercare and follow-up services are not available.
- Further complicating the picture are societal attitudes against individuals who have a substance abuse problem. The stigma attached to being a "drunk" or "junkie" inhibits an individual from acknowledging the problem and leads society to look to punishment rather than treatment as a way to deal with substance abuse and the problems it causes.
- Treatment not only spares society the costs and consequences of alcohol and other drug abuse -- it also enables people to again be better citizens, better family members, better students, and better employees.
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MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH
Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse
1706 East Elm; P.O. Box 687
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102