How to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment

Oct 4, 2022

When it comes to getting costly specialty care for a substance use disorder (SUD), the bottom line is that you can’t afford not to. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that alcohol and drug addiction costs Americans roughly $600 Billion annually.

And while getting people the treatment they need could shave a significant number of zeroes off that hefty price tag, a large percentage of those who suffer from SUDs can’t or won’t get specialized addiction help.

According to the SAMHSA 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of the 8.2 million adults ages 18 to 25 who were perceived as needing SUD treatment, only 3.7% had received services at a hospital, addiction recovery center, or mental health facility. For the 31.3 million adults 26 and older in the same boat, that percentage stood at 7.4%.

How to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment


Prohibitive Pricing

The most common reason respondents cited for not pursuing recovery at a drug or alcohol treatment facility? The high price. The National Drug Helpline estimates the following:

  • Medical detox costs $250 to $800 per day
  • Intensive outpatient treatment costs $3,000 to $10,000
  • Outpatient rehab costs $1,400 to $10,000
  • Residential substance abuse center costs $5,000 to $80,000 or more

Will I Lose My Job, Too?

When you’re spending that kind of money, you don’t want to worry about also losing your source of income. Thankfully, the answer to the above question is probably, ‘No.’ Being honest and open with your boss about wanting to pursue treatment will go a long way to ensuring that your workplace will welcome you back when you finish treatment.

And by law, you are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act to go through substance abuse rehab, as long as you provide your company with a medical referral and are not actively using. Most companies also have an Employee Assistance Plan to help you access various company health and wellness resources.

Personal Financing

Most of us don’t have thousands of dollars at our disposal, but we often have emergency funds, savings accounts, 401(k)s, investments, and life insurance funds we can borrow from if we have to.

Unlike your savings, you’ll need to pay back 401(k)s and life insurance policy loans within a specific time limit to avoid owing taxes on the loan amount and any early withdrawal fees. On the plus side, you’re likely to get a better interest rate on a 401(k) loan, and that interest funnels right back into your account.

You might also consider selling some of your assets and downsizing into a smaller home. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for monetary assistance from your family. Regardless of what has happened in the past, let them know that these funds are for recovery, not substances or bailouts. A good idea is to have them pay the facility directly, so you never see any of the money.


The passage of the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act paved the way for insurance plans to cover mental illness and addiction the same way they cover medical costs. Depending on your plan and coverage, your insurance may foot the bill for a significant portion or all the treatment expenses.

If unable to afford a full-coverage private insurance plan, your local Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare exchange provides several income-restricted programs. The ACA also mandates that insurance providers are not allowed to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. And, of course, Medicare (over age 65) and Medicaid cover those who are disabled or lack the financial means to pay for insurance.

In your initial investigation into different drug rehabs and the services offered by each, make sure to find out from your insurance provider if they are in network with your plan and exactly what’s covered and what’s not.

Payment Plans, Sliding Fees, & Scholarships/Grants

Many alcohol and drug rehabs offer payment plans or sliding fees adjusted according to your income and assets. For example, Renaissance Ranch works with clients on a case-by-case basis to help keep monthly treatment payments affordable.

Government organizations, addiction recovery centers, private companies, and not-for-profit entities also offer scholarships for patients with demonstrated financial need. The SAMHSA and the National Institutes of Health disburse grants to selected underprivileged populations like teens, expectant mothers, and IV drug users. Your own company’s EAP may also provide limited funding for rehab.

State-Funded Facilities

Every state has at least one government-funded substance abuse rehab available to locals at extremely low or no cost. These facilities often get a bad rap for not providing the best care, but that’s not necessarily true, as many state-funded addiction recovery centers have top-notch doctors and programs.

However, due to limited resources, these programs tend to have extremely long wait lists to get care and may not be able to meet all of your recovery needs.

Healthcare Credit

With healthcare costs skyrocketing, banks and private credit companies have begun to provide specialized cards for financing medical payments. These credit plans offer zero-interest financing loans with short payoff times (up to 12 months) and significantly lower interest rates than a standard credit card for longer-term payoffs.

Note: You must carefully read the fine print for interest payments, as some are deferred. That means if you charged $1,000 on a zero-interest account with a 6-month payoff, the interest starts accumulating from the moment you make the charge. If you don’t pay off the card in full by the 6-month deadline, the company will charge you six months’ worth of accumulated interest in addition to the remaining principal amount you still owe.


A relatively new fundraising concept that has gained momentum in recent years is crowdfunding. Many people donate a few dollars to your cause, hopefully adding up to meet your financial goal. Crowdfunding starts with you telling your story on a social media funding platform, such as GoFundMe or CoFundHealth, and rallying friends and acquaintances to support your cause. The idea is for your story to go viral, with your friends donating, passing the virtual ‘plate’ to their friends, and so on.

Most people probably won’t want to indiscriminately give money to a substance abuser, as there’s little to no assurance the funds will actually go to treatment and not further abuse. With that in mind, we recommend asking a neutral third party to manage the account and send the funds directly to the addiction recovery center. You can do this personally or by using an online platform that guarantees the proper disbursement of the funds.

Personal Credit

Unlike healthcare lines of credit, which can only pay for medical and related costs, you can use your standard credit cards, home equity loans, and other types of financing for virtually anything. That freedom usually comes with a much higher interest rate, though. It’s best to shop around for the best rates and payoff terms if you have no choice but to go this route.

While it may seem frightening to exhaust your savings, sell your things, or go into debt for treatment, consider the alternative to seeking help. You will end up fighting an out-of-control addiction alone, possibly destroying meaningful relationships and deep-sixing your life and career along the way. Clearly, investing in addiction recovery means investing in a happier, healthier future.


Are you thinking of getting specialized addiction help for your substance abuse disorder but unsure of how to pay for the treatment? Prohibitive pricing can be a problem and it’s frightening to think about going into debt trying to pay the fees. But there are several ways to pay for the costly specialty care. Read on.

7 Ways to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment Infographic


How to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment