Drug Rehab Instead of Prison Could Save Billions

The debate about the efficacy of drug courts has been waged for the past decade, and now one more study has landed solidly in the “pro” column.

Research has found that sending offenders with a history of drug and alcohol abuse to addiction treatment programs rather than institutionalizing them in jail or prison is not only the humanitarian choice but it will cut crime rates and save billions of dollars.1

In a time when the federal government has a debt in the trillions, it seems unethical to ignore the benefits and cost savings of helping people get the medical care they need rather than incarceration that will only worsen everyone’s problems.

How Does Rehab Save Money?

How is it possible that spending money on treatment will save money? Like any investment in a worthy cause, the return on investing in mental health and recovery wellness will increase over the years. Consider the following:

  • Initial drug treatment is less expensive than incarceration.
  • Costs related to incarceration are cut because people who are in recovery are less likely to commit expensive crimes or be arrested again.
  • Because long-term health of each individual will be improved, the cost of healthcare for uninsured patients will be drastically reduced.
  • Costs of law enforcement and court costs will be cut when crime rates drop and fewer arrests occur.

If only 10 percent of drug-addicted offenders received drug rehabilitation instead of jail time, the criminal justice system would save $4.8 billion compared to current costs.1 If 40 percent of addicted offenders received treatment instead of jail, those savings would rise to $12.9 billion.1

Jason’s Story

“I realized that it was only a matter of time until big prison sentences would come my way,” writes Jason of his experience with drug addiction.

“I knew that game had come to an end. The last time I spent in jail, I looked at the people in there around me and thought, ‘Look at them; they all keep coming around here over and over. What a miserable way to live.’

Then I realized that they were probably saying the same about me…Today I have 15 years of continuous sobriety. I go to 3-5 meetings in a 12-Step fellowship each week and also host one meeting per week at my home.”

—Read Jason’s story and more at www.HeroesInRecovery.com

How Does Rehab Save Your Personal Money?

Treatment for addiction doesn’t just save money for communities. Looking at the big picture of recovery also saves money for individuals and families.

No matter how expensive treatment is, it’s nothing compared to the costs that add up over years of drug addiction, including:

  • Medical care and health costs for overdose, accidental injury under the influence, and chronic illness caused by drug use
  • Bail, court costs, lawyer fees, and other legal fees caused by drug-related arrest
  • Lost productivity due to active addiction, including a lowered ability to work and bring in money
  • Cost of supporting someone who is unable to support themselves
  • Cost of supporting any children born to the addicted person
  • Cost of long-term health complications due to substance use, that often appear later in life if a person manages to avoid overdose or immediate illness

It is estimated that about half of all people who are incarcerated are there at least in part due to an active drug or alcohol problem, yet only about 10 percent of them receive the drug rehabilitation they need to heal while they are behind bars.2

When drug offenders are released, they often immediately return to active drug abuse and within days, weeks, or months find themselves again in front of a judge and returning to jail for the same or similar crimes.

Find Help for Substance Use Today

Are you ready to help yourself or your loved one get into a drug rehab program and begin a better life? Call our free, confidential 24/7 hotline at 844-567-9906 to speak to an admissions coordinator who can help you find the right treatment center for you or your loved one.


1 Zarkin, G., Cowell, A., Hicks, K., et.al. Lifetime Benefits and Costs of Diverting Substance-Abusing Offenders from State Prison. Sage Journals.1 Aug 2015.

2 Replacing Prison Terms with Drug Abuse Treatment Could Save Billions in Criminal Justice Costs. Newswise. 2013.

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