aftercareAddiction is a serious mental illness that affects millions of Americans every year. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most undertreated illnesses in the nation. There are many factors that play into this, including social stigma, fear of withdrawal, and lack of education, but perhaps one of the biggest barriers to addiction treatment is the fear of the cost. All of these factors contribute to the fact that of the 23.5 million Americans suffering from a substance use disorder, only 2.6 million received treatment in 2009.

Does Insurance Cover Detox?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all insurance plans must cover addiction treatment; however, this doesn’t mean that all treatment options are covered. Despite the fact that detox is an essential part of recovery, not every plan covers options that make the process easiest.

Detox is a general term referring to the process of abstaining from an unhealthy substance and letting it naturally leave the body. In recovery from drug addiction, this can take the form of stopping intake all at once, often called “cold turkey” detox, or tapering off the dose of a drug over a period of time until full abstinence can be achieved. Which type of detox an addicted person chooses depends on several factors, including:

  • The type of drug abused
  • Severity of addiction
  • Past experiences with detox, including failed attempts
  • Overall health
  • Personal circumstances, such as work and life responsibilities

Rehabilitation programs are generally covered in most insurance plans, and many of these programs incorporate detox. This is especially true for individuals who decide to taper off their intake of the drug, or if they opt to treat their addiction using methadone or a similar replacement drug for opioid addiction. Those on prescription drugs can easily have the doctors at a rehab center administer controlled doses of the medication, so this option makes sense.

In the case that cold-turkey detox is necessary, there are medically assisted detox programs that allow clients to stay in a hospital or treatment center for the duration of the withdrawal symptoms. This way, doctors can monitor vital signs at all times and immediately or preemptively treat unpleasant symptoms. This makes the withdrawal process much easier, but unfortunately, this might not be covered by all insurance policies.

Rapid detox treatment, in which patients are sedated or put under, so the drugs can be rapidly flushed out of their systems and supposedly have withdrawal symptoms pass as they are asleep, is generally not covered due to the lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of this kind of treatment. In addition, rapid detox can result in dangerous, and even fatal, consequences, so it is not recommended.

Additional Payment Options

In the case that a person does not have insurance and can’t afford uncovered treatment, there are still options. There are many treatment centers run by the state, by charity organizations, or by religious organizations that charge on a sliding scale or offer free treatment depending on the needs of the addicted individual, though there may be a waiting list for free programs. Many standard treatment centers also charge on a sliding scale or have financing options available. There are even loan companies specifically dedicated to giving loans to people for addiction treatment.

Seeking treatment for addiction can feel overwhelming, but finding that care is always possible. The first step may simply be to talk to an addiction specialist or even just your primary doctor. In addition, there are financial specialists at most addiction treatment facilities who can help clients devise the best plan to pay for treatment.

Medical detox is considered the safest and smoothest method for allowing the brain and body to restore healthy balance before continuing on with an addiction treatment program.

What Is Covered in the Costs of a Detox Program?


A detox program can help a person to become physically stable and provide a strong foundation for recovery when followed with an addiction treatment program. In general, addiction treatment can save a family and society money on healthcare expenses, lost workplace production, legal and criminal costs, and more. In fact, NIDA estimates that addiction treatment can provide a return on investment of $4-7 for every $1 spent.

Specifically, money spent on detox goes to cover the following:

  • Medications
  • Drug screenings
  • Assessment and evaluation to individualize care
  • Monitoring of vital signs and medical care when needed
  • Therapy and counseling
  • A supportive, calm, stable, and structured environment
  • Safety from self-harm
  • Relapse prevention tools
  • Care for co-occurring mental health and physical disorders
  • Nutritional and balanced meals
  • Room and board
  • Around-the-clock care and supervision

Medications are often necessary during detox to achieve physical balance. In the case of opioid, benzodiazepine, and alcohol withdrawal, substances may be tapered off slowly during withdrawal to avoid major negative side effects that occur when stopping the substances suddenly.

During a taper, medical providers slowly wean a client off the drug, avoiding shock to the system. Short-acting drugs can also be replaced with longer-acting ones, so that less of a drug is needed less often.

Detox not only provides pharmacological and medical support; it also offers encouragement and guidance to remain abstinent. Therapeutic tools can be used to improve mood and reduce instances of relapse.

A medical detox program typically lasts around 5-7 days, and a person will remain on site receiving supervised care 24 hours a day, seven days a week during their stay. An individual can therefore be kept safe from self-harm during mood swings or bouts of aggression that sometimes occur during withdrawal.

Room and board, nutritious meals, and a calm environment that is free from the chaos of the outside world are also provided with structured detox programs. In addition, support from professionals and peers can be vital during this time. Detox programs may also use adjunct therapies and alternative techniques, including spa treatments, massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, yoga, and mindfulness meditation to enhance healing and recovery during withdrawal.