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How Poor Public Funding Affects Substance Abuse Treatment Centres

Many countries around the globe are dealing with addiction at colossal levels – around 11.8 million people die from substance use every year. In the United States, nearly 21 million Americans struggle with at least one addiction and require access to substance abuse treatment centres, but only 10% receive proper treatment. The same is true for Canada; studies suggest at least 21.6% of the population will experience addiction in their lifetime, however, only 7% of health-care funding is allocated towards mental health and addiction concerns

There is a treatment gap that needs to be addressed but the current government is doing very little to improve the situation. Despite the existence of substance abuse treatment centres, there’s still a lack of public funding to cover addiction treatment costs for the vast majority of the population, as proven by problematically long waitlists for rehab. Unfortunately, the reluctance to financially sustain addiction treatment centres worsens the situation and results in serious implications, not only for the addict but for the entire community.

The Overall Economic Cost of Substance Abuse in Canada

In 2014, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use and Research, released a comprehensive report that delved into the economic effect of substance abuse in the country.

Data revealed that the cost of substance use in Canada was $38.4 billion (approximately $1,100 spent for every Canadian regardless of age). Also recorded was a staggering amount of substance use deaths at 67,515 people, which can be linked to the pervasive use of these top four substances:

The soaring cases of substance abuse combined with the lack of access to publicly funded addiction treatment centres are negatively impacting Canadian communities in countless ways.

Man smoking marijuana out of a hand pipe

Healthcare-related Costs: $11.1 Billion (29.0%)

This refers to inpatient hospitalizations, emergency room visits, day surgery treatment episodes, specialist treatment for addiction disorders, and the cost of professional fees of physician and prescription drugs. Harmful use of alcohol and tobacco contributes to 90% of the total cost. In 2014, there were 255,600 hospitalizations attributable to substance use, of which 145,800 (57.0%) were from tobacco and 87,900 (34.4%) from alcohol.

Loss of Productivity Costs: $15.7 Billion (40.8%)

The estimated cost of substance use-related loss of productivity was caused by premature deaths and long or short-term disability, including chronic absenteeism and impaired job performance. Individuals struggling with addiction are oftentimes unemployed, as they are unable to commit to responsibilities as an effect of the disease. The highest increase in productivity cost loss was seen between 2007 and 2014, which experts associated with the worsening opioid crisis in Canada.

Criminal Justice Costs: $9.0 Billion (23.3%)

This covers the cost dedicated to police work, courts and corrections. According to their findings, 43% of partially attributable crimes, excluding impaired driving and other crimes defined under the CDSA, could have been avoided if the perpetrator had not been under the influence or seeking alcohol and illicit drugs.

Likewise, 20% of all violent crimes would not have happened if the perpetrator was not dealing with addiction. Alcohol was identified to be responsible for the substance-use related crime costs at $3.2 billion or 35.2% of all criminal justice costs. It’s followed closely by cocaine ($1.9 billion or 20.8%) and cannabis ($1.8 billion or 19.7%).

The Price of Failing to Provide Effective Addiction Treatment

In an article published in the American Journal of Public Health, the authors noted that addiction treatment centres have been convincingly more effective than law enforcement and incarceration in reducing the demand for illicit drugs.

In the U.S., delayed or denied access to substance abuse treatment centres costs taxpayers up to $276 billion per year spent on health care, law enforcement, lost productivity and incarceration. This staggering cost does not yet include public funding spent on the consequent foster care and social services for the children of addicts. Approximately 55% of the economic burden of alcohol and drug problems is shouldered by those who do not use these substances.

A man covers his eyes in distress

How Substance Abuse Treatment Centres Can Make a Difference

Studies have supported that publicly funding addiction treatment cost is a wise investment with benefits that exceed the funding spent due to its positive effects in reducing the following:

  • Illegal drug use
  • Criminal activity
  • Victimization
  • Hospitalization and inpatient mental health visits
  • Homelessness
  • Sexual activities in exchange for money or drugs
  • HIV-related risk behaviours
  • Welfare dependency
  • Relapse
  • Unemployment

Higher Rates of Healthy Pregnancies After Treatment

Women with addiction have been shown to have improved rates of healthy pregnancies up to one year after successfully going through substance abuse treatment centre programs. On the contrary, failure to treat women with cocaine addiction alone can cost up to $352 million per year in medical services for cocaine-exposed babies.

Our Frontline Support Program

Despite the convincing data we presented in this article, the truth is, it may take a while before we see significant improvements in the amount of public funding local substance abuse treatment centres receive.

In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to bridge the treatment gap. Freedom From Addiction has recently launched its Frontline Support Program, which aims to cover half a million dollars worth of addiction treatment costs for our essential workers (specifically those with health-care insurance).

For more information about this new program and our addiction treatment centre, please do not hesitate to reach out. A member of our team will get back to you shortly.


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