Rehab Can Fatten the Wallet

Alcohol use disorders are expensive but treatment can really cut costs

(RxWiki News) A six-pack here, a bottle there, a day off work to nurse a hangover—these costs can add up fast. Treatment for alcoholism can keep that chunk of money in the bank

A recent study evaluated the financial burden of caring for an alcoholic for 48 families. Results found that after a year of treatment overall cost was reduced by 16 percent.

"Talk to your doctor if you need treatment for alcohol abuse."

Hans Joachim Salize, PhD, medical professor at Heidelberg University in Mannheim, Germany, led the investigation.

Dr. Salize said, “When they 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.”

For this small study, 48 relatives and caregivers of treatment-seeking alcoholics were assessed before rehabilitation and 12 months afterwards.

Researchers were looking for the amount of money families and caregivers spent in relation to the alcoholic’s addiction. Quality of life for caregivers and patient relapses were also taken into account.

While this assessment was done in Germany, the financial figures have been converted to U.S. dollars.

Results of the study found that prior to rehabilitation, the average family expenditure as a result of an individual’s alcohol addiction was $832.26 per month.

A year later, after treatment, the average monthly expenditure dropped to $178.89.

Based on the average income, those numbers went from 20 percent to 4 percent of the monthly intake.

The two largest expenditures were alcohol and cigarettes, which went from $310.29 and $114.43 per month to $86.92 and $79.04, after treatment.

Time is also worth money. Prior to treatment caregivers spent an average of 32.2 hours per month taking care of the alcoholic patient. After treatment, this amount of time dropped to 8.2 hours per month.

If hiring informal care to look after the alcoholic patient was necessary, the monthly expenditure averaged $337.66. This amount reduced to an average of $85.88 per month after treatment.

Researchers also took into account the impact of relapse. Treatment still reduced the financial burden an average of $80.26 per month, even if the patient relapsed back into alcohol abuse.

Dr. Salize said, “[W]hen 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.”

This study was published in September in Addiction.

No funding information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
September 27, 2012