Investments in Prevention and Treatment Make Good Financial Sense
There is strong evidence that investing in drug prevention and addiction treatment makes good financial sense. The ongoing existence of addiction is more expensive than the cost of treating it. Not only would investments in treatment result in the rehabilitation of millions of addicts, but it would also save the American people billions of dollars through improved workplace productivity, reduced criminal justice costs, and reduced medical costs.
The Cost of Addiction
The costs of drug and alcohol addiction to addicts, their families, and society are extreme. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug and alcohol addiction costs the U.S. about $600 billion per year.
And that figure is just an estimate. One of the most expensive aspects of addiction is quite difficult to assign a dollar amount. This refers to the cost of lost workplace productivity, i.e., the economic drag caused by tens of millions of addicts not showing up for work, performing poorly at work, getting into accidents at work, being fired from jobs due to failed drug tests, etc.
One study sought to identify the extent of lost workplace productivity from alcohol misuse. Through intensive study, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine were able to determine the following:
- About 9% of American workers, approximately 11 million people, meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol addiction.
- People who suffer from an addiction to alcohol miss 32 days of work each year because of illness, injury, or drunkenness.
- 32 missed workdays is more than double the number of workdays missed by individuals who do not abuse alcohol. Though addicted workers only comprise 9% of the workforce, they account for 14.1% of total workplace absences.
- Workers who do not misuse alcohol miss about 13 workdays per year. Workers who misuse alcohol from time to time miss 18 workdays per year.
- American workers who are addicted to alcohol miss more than 232 million workdays annually.
Workers addicted to alcohol are also more likely to be fired for workplace intoxication or missed workdays. But that only leads to higher turnover rates (also costly for businesses). To this point, the study’s lead author, Dr. Laura J. Bierut, reflected on the importance of employers helping addicted employees seek treatment instead of firing them. In her words, “Often, people who miss that much work lose their jobs. But our hope is that the workplace might be a point of contact where intervention can occur. You’re there eight hours a day, and when an employer begins seeing these difficulties, perhaps instead of firing a person, they could take action to assist with that individual’s recovery.” Truly, investments in treatment efforts over investments in punitive actions provide better returns for businesses, the economy, and American society.
How Investments in Treatment Pay for Themselves
While the cost of addiction to society is clear, it is also abundantly clear how investments in addiction treatment show a significant return by reducing other costs. NIDA has put forth clear figures to identify investments and returns, opening with this statement, “Drug addiction treatment has been shown to reduce associated health and social costs by far more than the cost of the treatment itself.” Following from that:
- Treating addiction is less expensive than alternative “solutions,” such as incarcerating drug users.
- Every dollar invested in addiction treatment yields a return of between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft.
- When savings related to healthcare are factored in, total savings increase their margin over total costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.
- Given the high rate of recidivism associated with the criminal justice system, there’s reason to believe that addiction treatment is more likely to produce long-term gains than incarceration, as addicts who go through treatment are more likely to stay off drugs than addicts who go through the criminal justice system.
There are also the unmeasurable savings to consider. NIDA researchers said it best, and in their own words, “Major savings to the individual and to society also stem from fewer interpersonal conflicts; greater workplace productivity; and fewer drug-related accidents, including overdoses and deaths.” It seems investments in treatment pay for themselves and create a significantly healthier society.
Prevention Efforts are Also a Wise Financial Investment
Prevention efforts are also wise investments, as they help stop addiction from occurring in the first place. Dr. Nora Volkow, the National Institute on Drug Abuse director, recently penned an article about the economic side of addiction prevention. She cited several examples, one of which focused on local drug education and prevention efforts offered to high-risk youths in disadvantaged communities.
In the case of the Communities That Care program and many others like it, investments in early-age intervention to teach kids about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol were associated with a drop in drug and alcohol abuse rates in those neighborhoods in the following years. Investments of $602 resulted in savings of $7,754 in reduced criminal justice costs, a $12.88 return for every dollar spent on the program.
Addiction Treatment is a Life-Saving Solution for Those Who Need It
Not only do investments in addiction treatment and prevention make sense, but such investments are also life-saving. Addiction is treatable, and no one needs to continue struggling with such a severe affliction as this when solutions are available.
If you have a family member or loved one using drugs and alcohol, please do everything you can to get them help. Please get in touch with a drug and alcohol rehab center today.
- NIDA. “Is drug addiction treatment worth its cost?” 2018. nida.nih.gov
- JAMA Network Open. “Association Between Workplace Absenteeism and Alcohol Use Disorder From the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2015-2019.” 2022. jamanetwork.com
- ScienceDaily. “In U.S., alcohol use disorder linked to 232 million missed workdays annually.” 2022. sciendedaily.com
- NIDA. “Investing in Prevention Makes Good Financial Sense.” 2022. nida.nih.gov