Treating Alcoholism Saves You Money

By Chrisanne Grise 09/25/12

Despite the cost of treatment for alcoholism, it ultimately saves the whole family money, a German study shows.

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Strapped for cash? Might be time to quit.
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Alcoholics who receive treatment significantly reduce the financial burden of their addiction on their families, according to a new German study published in the journal Addiction. Researchers looked at 48 families with an alcoholic family member, and found that after 12 months of treatment, the costs directly related to that family member’s alcoholism fell from an average of $832 per month to $178 a month. This means that the average costs incurred by alcoholism decreased from about 20% to just over 4% of the total pre-tax family income. Even in the case of relapse, treatment reduced the costs by an average of $80 a month. And the families were saving more than just money—the average amount of time spent caring for the alcoholic member dropped from 32 hours a month to just 8 hours a month. "When [researchers] look at effects on families, addiction studies mainly focus on problems such as domestic violence and depression, not on the financial burden of caring for an alcoholic," says lead author Dr. Hans Joachim Salize, of the Central Institute of Mental Health. "But when health services and policymakers study the costs and benefits of treating alcoholism, they need to know that treatment has an immense financial effect not just on the alcoholic but also on his or her spouse, partner, children and parents. The benefits of treatment reach well beyond the individual patient."

As a caveat, the cost of addiction treatment may be much different in Germany than in countries like the US. But still, the average cost of residential treatment for alcohol or drug abuse was $3,840 per admission in 2002, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Compared with the amount of cash spent on alcohol along with the costs of the consequences and loss of productivity, it would seem likely that treatment would reduce the financial burden on an addict's family, no matter what country they live in.

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices, AbsolutePunk.net, Chorus.fm, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.

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