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Are There Free Rehabs?
Many facilities offer free services or sliding scale fees, but they may not advertise that they offer these. Additionally, these facilities may have long waiting lists, and the person may have to provide proof of economic need. While the cost of rehab can be a barrier for some, treatment provides a 7:1 return on the cost.

People addicted to drugs or alcohol can spend large amounts of time, money, and energy on their addiction. Depending on the drug of choice, it can be expensive and exhausting to make sure they always have enough to support their addiction.

The expenses of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction can add up quickly. As more and more money goes toward supporting drug or alcohol addiction, people often find they have fewer dollars to spend on necessities like housing, food, clothing, and gas.

While many addiction treatment programs come with a hefty price tag, there are a number of low- or no-cost rehab options that may help cover the expense.

Paying for Rehab

There are millions of people struggling with the problem of how to pay for addiction treatment. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2010 there were 3 million full-time workers who needed substance abuse treatment but did not have health insurance.


Addiction affects over 20 million Americans every year. Yet only 11.6% of Americans struggling with addiction receive treatment.

Each person’s situation is different and everyone has a reason for either seeking or not seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. One of the most common obstacles is cost. In some cases, individuals unable to meet the costs of treatment may be able to find help from rehab facilities willing to offer addiction treatment services for free.

Finding Affordable Rehab

luxury-shutter104186153-writing-checkIf an addiction treatment program offers free or low-cost services, how do they stay in business? Drug and alcohol rehab centers might charge fees to help cover operating costs. These fees may help pay for:

  • Food.
  • Building maintenance.
  • Staffing.
  • Advertising.
  • Legal advice.
  • Medications.
  • Materials.

If treatment centers did not charge fees, they might have a harder time offering quality services. This is especially true of rehab facilities that don’t accept money from state or federal government because they rely on fees to stay in business.

To determine how many addiction rehab facilities offer free services, SAMHSA performed a national survey in 2012 to which 14,311 facilities across the country responded. Of those that responded, 50% reported that they provided free treatment for people who could not afford rehab. Almost one quarter of these rehabs were private, for-profit facilities.

Additionally, 62% of facilities reported that they offer a sliding fee scale, which means people are able to pay however much they could afford. While not all addiction rehab facilities are able to offer services for free, free and low-cost options do exist.

Although half of addiction rehab facilities offered free services in 2012, most treatment centers don’t publically advertise that they offer free services. Individuals who are interested in finding free or low-cost drug or alcohol addiction treatment can ask their doctor or therapist for recommendations of facilities to contact. If a person can provide proof of economic need, free or subsidized help may often be available.

If you are underinsured or uninsured, SAMHSA can help refer to you to low-cost addiction recovery programs in your area via their helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Questions to Ask

Before you agree to enter an addiction treatment program, you will need to know exactly how much you will be required to pay. These questions for the rehab facility can help you get the answers you need:

  • Do you provide assistance to people who do not have insurance?
  • Do you provide assistance to people in financial distress?
  • Does your facility provide a sliding scale of fees?
  • Has your facility provided free services in the past?

Questions like these may feel intrusive to ask, but it is best to get answers to questions about cost and payment before starting an addiction program. The rehab facility will know that you require free services, and you will know whether or not the facility will be able to help meet your financial needs.

Things to Consider

luxury-shutter318849443-patient-talking-to-doctorPlaces that provide free addiction rehab services can be popular and in demand, and some free facilities might have long waitlists. Keep in mind that the sooner a person gets into addiction treatment, the better their outcome can be.

After an intervention from friends or family or a discussion with a doctor, a person might be motivated to change their life and get the help they need to live drug free. Waiting for weeks or months for a space to open up could take away their motivation when they need it most.

Long wait times are one of the most common barriers to seeking drug treatment. When people have to wait longer to enter treatment, they are more likely to drop out and not complete treatment. Studies show that individuals who drop out are much more likely to relapse.

It is important that people addicted to drugs or alcohol get into rehab as quickly as possible after they have made the decision to seek treatment. If there is a long waitlist, a person does not have control over when they will enter treatment. If a person can be patient and keep addiction treatment as a top priority, this can be key to recovery success.

Individuals can also enroll for public insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA covers services that treat substance use disorders. In order to receive this coverage, a person must buy insurance through the online health insurance exchanges for their state of residence. There are open enrollment periods throughout the year to sign up for health insurance. People can also call their existing insurance provider to see if treatment for substance use disorders is covered.

Is Rehab Worth the Cost?

Challenges with financing, payments, and health insurance can make a person considering addiction treatment wonder if it is worth the cost and effort. According to the National Institutes of Health, addiction treatment provides a 7:1 return on cost. Not only can living a drug-free life save money, it can save lives and relationships as well.


  1. Andrews, C.M., Shin, H.C., Marsh, J.C., & Cao, D. (2013). “Client and program characteristics associated with wait time to substance abuse treatment entry.”The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse,39(1), pp. 61-68.
  2. Brorson, H.H., Arnevik, E.A., Rand-Hendriksen, K., & Duckert, F. (2013). “Drop-out from addiction treatment: A systematic review of risk factors.” Clinical psychology review,33(8), pp. 1010-1024.
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2016). Drug Abuse and Addiction.
  4. Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2016). Substance Abuse and the Affordable Care Act.
  5. ubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). More Americans continue to receive mental health services, but substance use treatment levels remain low.
  6. ubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services.
  7. ubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). New National Study Highlights Substance Use Disorder Treatment Need Among Full-Time Workers Without Health Insurance.