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Economic Benefits of Drug Treatment: A Critical Review of the Evidence for Policy Makers

NCJ Number
Steven Belenko Ph.D.; Nicholas Patapis Psy.D; Michael T. French Ph.D.
Date Published
February 2005
84 pages
This report presents an economic analysis of drug treatment in the United States.
Substance abuse has been linked with numerous deleterious consequences, including substantial health and social costs. Evidence suggests that substance abuse is one of America's most serious health and social problems. Research findings have also pointed to the fact that substance abuse treatment, especially when it incorporates evidence-based practices, can effectively reduce substance abuse and, thus, the health and social consequences that go with it. This report provides an economic analysis of drug treatment in the United States through a systematic and extensive review of the recent published and unpublished research literature on the economic costs and benefits of substance abuse treatment. In all, 68 published and unpublished reports and studies were reviewed. The analysis standardized the treatment costs across the studies through a recalculation of cost per week of treatment; all treatment costs were inflated to 2004 dollars. Results of treatment costs are offered by type of treatment, followed by the cost effectiveness analysis (CEA) and the cost benefit analysis (CBA). Overall, the findings indicate that there are substantial economic benefits arising from substance abuse treatment; primary economic benefits are derived from drops in crime and post-treatment reductions in health care costs. Future study in this area should focus on better controlled and designed research methodologies to determine the long-term economic impact of substance abuse treatment. Footnotes, tables, references, appendixes