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How to Get Drug Detox Treatment Without Health Insurance

Stressed man leaning over railing worrying about detox and insurance

People actively abusing alcohol, prescription medications, and illicit drugs face many challenging obstacles. They must endure the damaging influence of substances on their physical, psychological, and social health, and if they attempt to quit using the substance, they will likely encounter intense, often dangerous symptoms as the drug leaves their body.1,2 Because of these hazards, anyone who wants to stop using drugs should find ways to access formal, detoxification treatment to safely and effectively transition to a drug-free life.1,2 Unfortunately, certain barriers to treatment, like a lack of health insurance, discourage people from professional treatment and drive them toward riskier options.

How Much Does Detox Cost?

Treatment Methods

medical detox professional
Although many variables determine the correct method of treatment, there are a handful of recovery options that have been shown to effectively help individuals detoxify and go on to live drug-free lives. Read More

The cost of professional detox can vary depending on the type of detox program, the length of the program, and the type of services and amenities offered.

  • Medically assisted or medically supervised detoxification treatment involves professional implementation of many tools, strategies, and pharmaceutical intervention to help manage the withdrawal process while the drug is eliminated from the body, maintaining your comfort.2 Detox occurs at several different levels, intensities, and settings, with inpatient and outpatient detox being the two primary treatment categories.1,2
  • Inpatient detox treatment is usually a more intense level of care where you live at the facility for the duration of detox. Inpatient or residential treatment may offer 24-hour medical assessment, supervision, and treatment, with lengths of stay that vary from a few days to a couple weeks depending on the substance and your individual needs.1,2
  • Outpatient treatment refers to options that permit you to live at home, tend to your responsibilities, and care for your family while detoxing.1,2 Outpatient treatment can consist of daily appointments at a detox facility or at a doctor’s office.

Generally speaking, the cost of detox treatments varies widely from inpatient to outpatient, with most inpatient detox programs being more expensive than outpatient options. However, they also differ greatly within each type because the price is influenced by a number of additional factors.

Factors affecting the price of detox treatment are:3

  • Range of services offered.
  • Special populations treated, like people with mental health issues as well as substance abuse.
  • Location of facility.
  • Average length of stay.
  • Average number of people treated at the center, with higher costs associated with a lower number of patients or greater staff-to-patient ratio.

This information suggests that a program on the higher end of the price spectrum would be an extended detox program with intense, varied services, provided in a desirable location with many staff members treating few clients.3 Based on data from many detox programs, prices can range from $600 to $1,000 per day, which means that detox can be as inexpensive as $4,000 for the program if it is very short duration, and as expensive as $14,000, if the program lasts two weeks.4 There is little evidence to support that higher costs are strongly associated with better care, so make sure to do your research when investigating detox options.3

Why Should I Get Detox Treatment?

woman and doctor discussing detox treatment

When you go through detox after a period of sustained use, you face many distressing and sometimes dangerous effects called withdrawal symptoms.2,5 Those who quit alcohol and prescription sedatives, like benzodiazepines and barbiturates, are at greatest risk of harm and death from withdrawal, making professional treatment and supervision essential.2,5

People withdrawing from stimulants like methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may become suicidal or violently aggressive to others.2,5 Those withdrawing from opioids—including heroin and prescription pain medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone—can endure extreme mental and physical discomfort that often leads to relapse and overdose.2,5

Detox treatment is effective in providing comfort and reducing risks in several ways. For example, in the case of opioid detox, treatment providers can administer medications to relieve the distress and cravings associated with opioid withdrawal including:1,2,5

  • Methadone: A long-acting, full opioid agonist that can mitigate unwanted symptoms and reduce cravings.
  • Buprenorphine: A partial opioid agonist with a ceiling to its opioid effects. This medication is often combined with an opioid blocker called naloxone (in the medication Suboxone) to limit abuse potential.
  • Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist that is usually given after someone has completed detox.
  • Clonidine: Clonidine is not sufficient to manage the full scope of the opioid withdrawal syndrome but can be administered symptomatically to alleviate some autonomic symptoms, such as anxiety, sweating, and tremors.

The sheer magnitude of the need for detox services becomes hard to ignore when you consider that in 2013, there were more than 22.5 million people in the U.S. needing treatment for substance use, including:6

  • Nearly 2 million people for pain relievers.
  • More than 500,000 people for heroin.
  • More than 850,000 people for cocaine.
  • Nearly 15 million people for alcohol.

The most troubling aspect is that of the 22.5 million people needing treatment, only 2.5 million received care—such as detox—from a specialized facility. Of the 20 million people who needed but did not receive treatment, about 37% report that lack of insurance and inability to pay for treatment were barriers.6

Those interested in seeking treatment might have questions like:

  • How can I get immediate detox treatment without insurance?
  • How can I sign up for insurance?
  • How can I get a professional assessment?
  • How can I use community supports?
  • How much does Suboxone cost without insurance?
  • How do I find an insurance provider than covers methadone treatment?
  • How can I find Suboxone doctors that take insurance?

How to Get Immediate Treatment Without Insurance

Given the life-threatening risks of continued substance abuse and, in some cases, those associated with abruptly quitting those same substances, emergency treatment should be considered regardless of cost or coverage. The physical health and wellbeing of you or your loved one are too important to gamble. Overdose, severe depression, aggression, loss of consciousness, or unexpected symptoms are signs of acute events that require immediate treatment.2,5

Accessing emergency treatment will vary based on your location, so always seek out reputable information from trusted sources as you explore available options that include:

  • The local mental health or substance abuse crisis hotline.
  • Your local mental health or substance abuse treatment facility. Even if they are not the best fit for you, they can offer valuable information.
  • The nearest emergency department, if the symptoms warrant immediate attention.
  • In the most serious situations, call 911 right away.

Always provide an honest and complete description of your status to find the appropriate treatment because people with special concerns like homelessness, pregnancies, and medical issues may require a different type of treatment or detox than someone without such considerations. Depending on the care you need, you may begin treatment the same day. Remember, your life or the life of a loved one is too valuable to risk. Be sure to seek treatment rather than put a life in jeopardy.

Other Ways to Pay for Treatment

In a non-emergency situation, you will still need to figure out a way to pay for detox if you don’t have insurance. Several options exist, including:

  • Making payments: Ask the detox center intake coordinator if you can be placed on a payment plan that allows you to pay off your treatment over a reasonable amount of time.
  • Sliding scale: Often, treatment centers offer sliding scales for cash-pay clients based on income. This can make your detox far more obtainable.
  • Getting a loan: Many people decide their sobriety is worth taking out a loan for, either through a bank or from close friends or family.
  • Scholarships: It’s not unusual for detox or other treatment centers to offer partial or full scholarships to those who meet their qualifying criteria. Always ask if this option exists when considering where you’ll get treatment.

How Do I Sign Up for Insurance?

Man on computer searching for insurance optionsIf you are interested in signing up for insurance, consider contacting your county assistance office or perform a quick online search regarding insurance. For people who are not offered insurance through their job, there are several options for insurance including:7,8,9

  • Medicare: Health insurance for people 65 and older, people with specific disabilities, and people with kidney disease.
  • Medicaid: Health insurance for people with a low income as well as 1 or more of the following:
    • 65 or older.
    • 18 and younger.
    • Pregnant.
    • Having a disability.
    • Being a parent caring for a child.
    • An eligible immigrant.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA)/Obamacare: Affordable health insurance options for people outside of the previous categories. This act also expanded all mental health and substance use coverage by requiring most plans to include these services.

Each plan will vary in their coverage, but Medicare, Medicaid, and many plans under the ACA will provide partial or full coverage for professional assessment and detoxification, as well as many other substance abuse treatments, such as:9

  • Inpatient care.
  • Counseling.
  • Medication management.
  • Social work services.
  • Peer Supports.

Treatment for substance abuse requires a long-term commitment since detoxification is only the first step on the road to recovery. If you are interested in obtaining insurance, please consult:

Getting a Professional Assessment

A professional assessment is a great way to have your needs, wants, symptoms, and goals evaluated by a treatment expert. Many screenings use a SBIRT format, which stands for:10

  • Screening: Occurs in any setting and assesses for risky behaviors using simple and easy-to-score tools, which produce a clear rating of the addiction severity.
  • Brief intervention: The provider offers feedback and advice regarding your substance use, advocates abstinence, and discusses behavioral changes to support recovery.
  • Referral to treatment: The evaluator recommends detox, therapy, and additional services appropriate for your status.

Finding a Detox Program

For people wanting to manage their substance dependence and end their addiction, there may be a great deal of pressure to find the “right” detox program, but many programs offer effective, evidence-based treatments to help manage the withdrawal process, including:

Finding Community Support

community support groupSubstance use, abuse, addiction, and dependence are affected by many aspects of your past and current experiences like:1

  • Family structure and relationships.
  • Housing.
  • Access to transportation.
  • Finances.
  • Previous encounters with law enforcement.
  • Physical health condition.
  • Mental health condition.
  • Level of education.
  • Work/ vocational status.
  • Child care.

Many people attend support groups once they complete detoxification and continue to need community support as a form of relapse prevention.When your affairs are in order and things are running smoothly, you are more likely to experience higher levels of support and other protective factors to aid in your continued abstinence and promote long-term recovery from substances. When these same issues and supports are lacking or chaotic, they may create increased levels of stress and instability that adversely influence your progress toward a drug-free lifestyle. Professional detox programs facilitate your recovery by helping you transition to an ongoing addiction treatment program, which then uses a comprehensive approach to address each area.1

There are a number of free and widely available support groups that can expand the benefit of professional treatments and complement your recovery progress.1 Many people attend support groups once they complete detoxification and continue to need community support as a form of relapse prevention.

  • 12-step groups: Support groups that add a level of community support, positive social interactions, and understanding. 12-step groups options can apply to a number of specific substance abuse including:
    • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
    • Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
    • Cocaine Anonymous (CA).
    • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA).

Other 12-step groups are available for the friends, family, and loved ones of people with addictions including Al-Anon and Alateen.

Some people in recovery prefer support group options that exist outside of the 12-step model, such as:

  • SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) offers face-to-face and online meetings to aid in recovery.
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is an independent network of groups focused on recovery without religious influence.
  • LifeRing provides peer-to-peer support through meetings, online groups, and internet forums.

Support groups can be very helpful, but they should not be used as a replacement for specialized professional detox and addiction treatment, especially if you are addicted to a substance with potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
  3. French, M. T., Popovici, I., & Tapsell, L. (2008). The Economic Costs of Substance Abuse Treatment: Updated Estimates and Cost Bands for Program Assessment and Reimbursement. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 35(4), 462–469.
  4. American Addiction Centers. (2017).
  5. World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.
  7. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2015). What is Medicare?
  8. Social Security Administration. (2016). Glossary.
  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Health Insurance and Mental Health Services.
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). SBIRT: Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment.