Government spending on addiction is generally broken up into several parts. Some money is spent on prevention efforts, including education about the dangers of drugs and excessive alcohol use and screening for early detection efforts. Money is spent on addiction treatment for those who do not have access to it on their own. Money is also spent on the consequences of untreated addiction, such as medical needs that arise from addiction, law enforcement for crimes committed because of or under the influence of addiction, and other expenses like foster care for children removed from addicted parents.

How Colorado Stacks Up

As a whole, most states spend far more of their limited budgets on the consequences of addiction than they do on prevention and treatment. Colorado currently spends 15.6 percent of its budget on items related to addiction, and only 3 cents of every one of those dollars is spent on prevention and treatment, while 97 percent of the addiction-related spending pays for the consequences of untreated or inadequately treated addiction, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

While a few states spent 5 to 11 cents of each dollar on prevention and treatment, 30 states spent only one to two cents of each dollar on addiction prevention and treatment, with 50 or more times that amount being spent on law enforcement and the results of untreated addiction. Estimated federal and state spending on prevention and treatment of addiction is estimated to be about 1.9 cents for every dollar spent.

Providing more funding for addiction prevention and treatment would actually save governments money in the long run.

Prevention and Treatment Save Governments Money

1994 Rand study estimated that governments would save $7.46 in law enforcement, medical care, and lost productivity for each dollar spent on prevention and treatment. Research indicates that state governments including Colorado could end up saving money on other services (not to mention heartache, tragedy, and much suffering) if they decided to invest more money into stopping addiction before it starts and treating it before it becomes a matter for law enforcement or the medical community to handle.

Currently, only about 25 percent of those who are identified as having substance abuse problems get treatment, and some do not get treatment because there is not enough money budgeted for everyone who needs treatment to get it. The federal government has committed $45 billion to treating opioid addiction in the face of rising overdose rates, but that money is spread over 10 years and is not likely to lead to treatment for everyone who wants and needs it either.

If governments take the mindset that providing addiction treatment for those who cannot provide it for themselves would be a cost-cutting measure in the long run, it seems likely to lead to more available treatment, which could lead to less need for law enforcement and medical care as well as increased productivity after the first few years.

Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab that provides treatment for those struggling to overcome addiction, with or without government help. Contact us for more information about our programs and how they can help you or a loved one onto the journey of recovery.

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The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.