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How to Get Drug Detox Treatment Without Health Insurance

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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 may encounter intense, potentially 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 professional detoxification treatment to safely and effectively begin on their path 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 to Get Immediate Treatment Without Insurance

Given the possibly 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 is too important to gamble. Overdose, severe depression, aggression, loss of consciousness, or unexpected symptoms are signs of acute events that require immediate treatment.2,4

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.

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.

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.

No Insurance Doesn't Mean No Options

There are detox facilities that will work to help you afford your stay in treatment. Ask about options like:

  • Making payments: Some detox centers will place you on a payment plan that allows you to pay off your treatment over a reasonable amount of time.
  • Sliding scales. Often, treatment centers offer sliding scales for cash-pay clients based on income. This can make your detox far more obtainable.
  • Financing options. Not all facilities will require you to pay the full cost upfront. You might be able to work out a system where you can pay over time, lessening the immediate financial burden.
  • 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.

Don’t assume you can’t pay for your treatment because you’re currently uninsured. Always ask a potential facility about any options they have to make your care more affordable. It might help to have documentation of your income, such as a recent pay statement, prior to calling.

State-Funded Rehab

Another option for free detox or low-cost treatment may be available through state-funded rehab centers. State-funded rehab centers are addiction treatment facilities funded by tax dollars. These programs accept money from the government in order to provide drug and alcohol rehab services to people who are unable to afford detox and rehab.

Many of these programs receive funding through a combination of federal grants, reimbursement through Medicaid, and state budgets.

Most state-funded rehab programs have strict eligibility requirements. You may be asked to show proof of US citizenship, income, lack of insurance, and residency within the state that you are seeking rehab treatment.

SAMHSA provides a directory of Single State Agencies (SSAs) for substance use services, the state government agencies that coordinate the delivery of services to individuals with substance use disorders. While also having other responsibilities, a large majority of SSAs resources are dedicated to providing addiction treatment to individuals who are uninsured or have low incomes.

The Treatment Services Locator, provided by SAMHSA, is a useful tool that allows you to find nearby treatment centers based on your home address.12 Your search results can be filtered based on any specific requirements you may have including specific payments accepted and availability of payment assistance.

COBRA Coverage

The loss of a job can bring worry about maintaining your health insurance coverage, but there are options out there. If you lose your job-based coverage, your former employer may offer you COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) continuation. COBRA gives people who have lost their jobs the chance to temporarily retain the group health coverage they had under their employer’s group health plan—for themselves and their families.

To be eligible for COBRA, you must have insurance that is covered by COBRA, a qualifying event (including job loss), and be a qualified beneficiary. Your former employer should let you know if you are eligible to maintain your insurance through COBRA, and you will have at least 60 days to decide if you would like to continue your coverage. Once you have decided to continue your coverage, you will sign up for COBRA, and you will be responsible for paying the entirety of your premium (what was previously covered by you and your employer).

Once you are enrolled in COBRA, you will have the same coverage you previously had when you were employed. That includes any mental health and substance misuse treatment that was covered through your insurance plan. If you are looking for addiction treatment while covered by COBRA, you will be responsible for paying your premium. Although it might be slightly more complicated than it was when you were employed, losing your job does not have to mean that you cannot receive the substance abuse treatment that you need.

Treatment Methods

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.

  • Medical detoxification treatment may involve professional implementation of many tools, strategies, and medically assisted therapy to help manage the withdrawal process and maintain your comfort while the drug is eliminated from the body.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.

What’s Offered?

Factors affecting the price of detox treatment include: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 low cost detox treatment

When you go through detox after a period of sustained use, you may face many distressing and potentially dangerous effects called withdrawal symptoms.2,4 Those who quit alcohol and prescription sedatives, like benzodiazepines and barbiturates, are at the greatest risk of harm or death from withdrawal, making professional treatment and supervision essential.2,4

People withdrawing from stimulants like methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may become suicidal or violently aggressive to others.2,4 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.2,4

Medically Assisted Detox

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:1,2,4

  • 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.

Need for Treatment

The sheer magnitude of the need for detox services becomes hard to ignore when you consider that in 2018, an estimated 21.2 million people in the U.S. needed treatment for substance use, including:5

  • Nearly 1.7 million people for pain relievers.
  • More than 2 million people for opioids.
  • More than 8.1 people for illicit drugs.
  • Nearly 14.8 million people for alcohol.

The most troubling aspect is that of the 21.2 million people needing treatment, only 1.4 million received care—such as detox—from a specialized facility. Of the almost 20 million people who needed but did not receive treatment, about 32.5% report that lack of insurance and inability to pay for treatment were barriers.5

Those interested in seeking treatment might have questions including:
  • 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 that covers methadone treatment?
  • How can I find Suboxone doctors who take insurance?

How Do I Sign Up for Insurance?

insurance options

If 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:6,7

  • 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): 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:8

  • 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.

Getting a Professional Assessment

A professional assessment is a great way to have your needs, wants, symptoms, and goals evaluated by a treatment expert.

Treatment Methods

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

Many screenings use a SBIRT format, which stands for:9

  • 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 group

Substance use, abuse, addiction, and dependence are affected by many aspects of your past and current experiences, including: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.
  • Childcare.

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 are chaotic or you are lacking support, you may experience 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):  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.

Paying for Rehab Treatment

Additional Resources on Drug and Alcohol Detox


  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). Tip 45: 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. World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  6. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (n.d.). What’s Medicare?
  7. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Medicaid.
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Health Insurance and Mental Health Services.
  9. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). SBIRT: Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment.

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