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Society Saves Big When Addicts Get Treatment

Crime Reduced, Employment Earnings Increased

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Updated November 02, 2005

Updated November 02, 2005
A research study conducted at UCLA found that the cost of substance abuse treatment is offset by direct monetary benefits to society, including reduced costs of crime and increased employment earnings.

The study concluded that every $1,583 spent on drug treatment services is offset by $11,487 in monetary benefits to society. Researchers looked at data from 2,567 treatment clients in 43 different treatment centers in 13 California counties.

"Even without considering the health and quality-of-life benefits to drug treatment clients themselves, spending taxpayer dollars on substance abuse treatment appears to be a wise investment," said Susan Ettner, lead author and professor of general internal medicine and health services research at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and School of Public Health.

The UCLA researchers estimated the cost of treatment, using an average daily cost estimate and they examined the costs of medical care, mental health services, criminal activity, earnings and related costs of government programs such as unemployment and public aid. They used data reported by the treatment clients prior to their treatment and nine months following treatment.

According to a news release from UCLA, the researchers also found:

  • Treatment costs of clients who began with outpatient care totaled $838 compared to $2,791 for those who began in residential care.

  • Reductions were seen in hospital inpatient, emergency room and mental health services costs, but only the $223 reduction in emergency room costs was statistically significant.

  • Reduction in the cost of victimization and other criminal activities averaged $5,676.

  • No significant changes were seen related to unemployment or disability costs. However, welfare payments increased slightly, perhaps due to increased referrals to public aid programs.
Source: The study was published Oct. 20, 2005 in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Health Services Research.

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