7 Ways to Enter
an Affordable Drug Rehab Programme

Addictions develop over time, leading to physical and psychological damage that is difficult to repair. The road to recovery is therefore not a quick one, and in most cases, it is unlikely to be cheap. Nevertheless, for people on a tight budget, the prospect of affordable drug rehab remains realistic and achievable – provided you make reasonable preparations, and look in the right places.

The goal of this article is to help people who are seeking treatment at a residential rehab, but may struggle to pay the high costs that are commonly associated with quality care. Here we outline several ways to save money on treatment, putting affordable rehab well within reach.

1. Use insurance to cover treatment

In virtually all cases, the cost of a rehab programme is less than the long-term cost of not receiving treatment at all. A worsening addiction almost invariably leads to deteriorating health, poor life decisions, and the need to be rescued before more severe harm is done either to those around the addicted person, or to the addict themselves. It is simply cheaper to do the rescuing early.
Insurance companies are aware of how these situations play out, which is one reason why many health insurance plans – whether purchased individually, or as part of an employer-sponsored package – include some forms of rehab in their coverage.
Of course, some insurance plans are restrictive about which kinds of rehab programmes they will cover, and others cover none at all. Often the coverage will be partial, depending on circumstances. Consider the following possibilities:
  • Medications may not be covered
  • Patients may only be able to use in-network doctors and facilities
  • Coverage could differ regarding length and type of treatment
  • Coverage may be limited if a claim for rehab has previously occurred 
  • Some addictions may not be covered (e.g. alcohol vs. heroin addiction)
Wherever coverage is absent or incomplete, the rest will need to be paid out of pocket.
But having some coverage is far better than having none at all, and if you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction that requires treatment, we strongly recommend reading the fine print on any relevant health insurance plan before selecting a rehab centre.

2. Ask about sliding scale fees

Residential rehab centres try to avoid having empty beds. If your finances are limited, it may be worth finding out whether your desired affordable rehab facility considers sliding scale fees. In essence, this means lowering their price if you can prove that you are unable to pay the full amount.
Before authorising a discount, rehab centres are likely to have you undergo a financial assessment, after which they will analyse the results. You will probably need to show bank statements, pay slips, and other documentation to confirm your financial status.
If you qualify for reduced cost service, you will then need to work out a special payment plan with the affordable drug rehab centre, so that the facility can be fairly compensated for its services. In many cases, the payment schedule can be extended to accommodate your financial situation.

3. Seek treatment at a faith-based rehab

Dedicated treatment centres run by faith-based organisations generally operate under a reduced fee structure – or are entirely free. The United States alone has hundreds of organisations that fall under this category, which are recognised by the government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Because they are often supported by state funding, and are not designed to make a profit, their services are generally quite affordable.
Of course, treatment at these types of facilities could also involve exposure to religious themes as part of the recovery process. This aspect of treatment may not be ideal for non-religious people, or those who identify with a different religion.
As a side note, it is worth keeping in mind that religion has traditionally played a role in addiction recovery efforts. The decades-old 12-step process which was pioneered and refined by Alcoholics Anonymous, then incorporated into other groups like Narcotics Anonymous, has religious themes – or at least spiritual beliefs – at its core.
Secular adaptations of the 12-step addiction recovery process have recently become more popular, so alternatives are certainly available for those less interested in faith-based self-empowerment. Likewise, religious organisations are not the only ones that can provide low-cost treatment.

4. Look for affordable rehab overseas

Perhaps the most reliable way to find an affordable drug rehab centre is to include overseas destinations in your research. Countries that have emerging economies and highly developed medical tourism infrastructure are able to offer ‘the best of both worlds’: High-quality service, at significantly lower prices than might be available in your home country.
Moreover, overseas affordable rehab centres offer these benefits without some of the downsides of other types of cheaper care. Their services tend to be secular in nature, have few or no special requirements for entry, and rarely put applicants on any kind of wait list. In nearly all cases, the cost of airfare is easily offset by the savings they provide – and these savings can multiply if treatment lasts for more than 1 month.
For those on a budget, Thailand is one of the world’s best rehab destinations that’s worth considering for addiction and mental health treatment. Thailand brings in millions of tourists each year to enjoy their natural and cultural features, and English is therefore widely used and understood. Western-style creature comforts are also widely available, so that a residential rehab experience can quickly feel like home.
In terms of treatment quality, rehabs in Thailand are often managed and run by either specialists who are originally from Western countries, or people who were educated and trained in the West, and who subsequently gained considerable experience working at rehab centres in the West. They therefore use the same modern, evidence-based techniques that are typically applied at rehab centres in more expensive countries.

Other countries may offer low-cost rehab opportunities as well, but there are always tradeoffs to consider between price and quality. Our experience, which includes feedback from people who have gone for treatment in many parts of the world, suggests that Thailand currently offer the best value for addiction treatment.

5. Attend government-funded programmes

Many countries also channel public money toward the rehab effort. Once again, references and eligibility details vary from country to country (and even within countries). American Addiction Centers, for example, has this valuable reference page with information on these and other programmes. In Australia, individual provinces have their own guides to publicly-funded treatment centres.

There are many benefits to entering into government-funded treatment:

  • Services are either free or income-based. Even if you pay, the price will be much lower than with private facilities. Many government-funded rehabs offer payment plans, and most will work with anyone who needs help.
  • As with other types of treatment, you will gain life skills to help you achieve and maintain sobriety, you will undergo cognitive behavioural therapy, and you will have access to medication-assisted treatment.
  • Because they are government-funded, these facilities are closely monitored, and are shut down if unsuccessful. Each facility’s spending is generally limited and services could be compromised.
Eligibility and other details likewise vary between countries and local government policies. In the US, in-state residence and proof of low-income status are usually among the requirements. In Australia, requirements differ but the wait-list for treatment can be prohibitively long. It is well worth taking the time to independently research the types of government-funded programmes in your area, their entry requirements, and whether they are right for you.

6. Seek treatment at a not-for-profit rehab

Charities and community-based facilities also receive external funding, which they use to provide good-quality services to those who need help. The following is a list of variables to consider, and actions to take, to determine whether you qualify for such programmes:
  • Contact your local authority office and ask for assistance. They will be able to provide you with the necessary resources and options available to you, based on your circumstances.
  • It is important to note that oftentimes there will be a waiting list for these facilities. If the wait is too long, you may want to pursue other options, as time is of the essence when seeking treatment for addiction.
  • Financial requirements for these programmes may vary. You will likely need to provide financial information, such as income and debt status, to prove that you qualify.
  • An assessment will likely be performed to determine if you actually need to enter into a treatment program.
  • It may be helpful to contact a local rehab to find out their suggestion regarding getting state funding.
As with the other types of affordable rehab centres covered in this article, the treatment that clients receive is unlikely to be luxurious. But for those on a tight budget, who are serious about their desire to break free from addiction – or receive other forms of mental health treatment – not-for-profit rehab may be the most sensible option.

Most Western countries have online resources that highlight low-cost or free rehab facilities available to those in need. One such reference (in the United States) is Free Rehab Centres, but there are many others also available in the US or elsewhere.

7. Other opportunities for savings

Depending on your nationality, you may qualify for tax deductions if your medical expenses add up to a significant portion of your annual income. While claiming a deduction may not save you money on your actual treatment, it could lessen your overall financial burden for the year.

One way to directly lower treatment costs is to opt for outpatient, rather than inpatient rehab. By arranging your own room and board independently, you can receive treatment on a lower budget. The downside is that living outside a managed facility requires you to maintain behavioural discipline even when no one is there to monitor or assist you. Moreover, outpatient treatment tends not to constitute a full ‘rehab programme’, as the level of care is much less intensive.

Another possibility to help save money is to attend as many open 12-step programmes as possible around your community. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous likely have frequent meetings in your area, and can provide valuable support and advice from other people who are facing similar struggles with addiction.
Eligibility and other details likewise vary between countries and local government policies. In the US, in-state residence and proof of low-income status are usually among the requirements. In Australia, requirements differ but the wait-list for treatment can be prohibitively long. It is well worth taking the time to independently research the types of government-funded programmes in your area, their entry requirements, and whether they are right for you.

Need help finding affordable rehab centres?

It isn’t easy to set up a programme of recovery that incorporates affordable drug rehab. Some of the above options may not be applicable in your situation, and others may seem too complex to arrange with confidence.

Whether you need help finding the right type of rehab to suit your needs, or if you have any other questions about how to settle on the best rehab for your budget, or if you’re not sure how to take advantage of some of the options described above, just let us know.

We’ll be happy to provide you with free guidance, by email or phone call. Please find our contact information below, and we’ll help you out as best we can.

Cameron Brown
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  3. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 2 Types of Groups Commonly Used in Substance Abuse Treatment. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64214/
  4. Stensland, M., Watson, P. R., & Grazier, K. L. (2012). An examination of costs, charges, and payments for inpatient psychiatric treatment in community hospitals. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 63(7), 666–671. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201100402
  5. Ascension Seton. (n.d.). Paying for Treatment. Behavioral Health Care. https://www.seton.net/behavioral-health-care/contact/paying-treatment/.

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