Common Barriers to Treatment for Addiction

Editorial Team

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Common Barriers to Treatment for Addiction

There are many misunderstandings about addiction and its treatment. One of those things is the actual process of seeking and attaining treatment. Many people mistakenly believe it is a very cut and dried path: a decision is made; treatment is provided. In fact, it can be a very long and unwieldy process full of stops, starts, and frustrations. While not a comprehensive list, the next few paragraphs try to shed light on some of the potential barriers to the treatment for addiction in hopes of bringing more compassion both to the subject and to anyone stuck in the process.

Seeking Treatment for Addiction

According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, the number of people with a substance abuse disorder reached 21 million people. Of this number, it is believed that only 10% receive any type of treatment. The reason for the small percentage is the unattainable cost of such an undertaking. Of those who choose not to seek treatment, 40% do so because they can’t afford it personally or believe that they don’t have adequate health insurance to do so.

The Cost of Addiction Treatment

The first and most obvious barrier to the treatment for addiction is the cost. The numbers all vary depending on the person and the need. But a general estimate is anywhere between $2,000 and $25,000. Opioid addictions, which are currently at a crisis level, cost about $6,000 per year. This treatment cost factors in the use of methadone, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Levels of Treatment

While all programs vary their offerings based on need, there are three main levels of treatment and each carries its own financial requirements:


This is the initial stage of the rehabilitation process. This is where the addict is monitored and can safely rid their body of any residual toxins and withdraw from the substance. The average stay for detox is 30 days and usually costs range from $250 to $800.

Residential Treatment

This type of rehabilitation involves constant supervision within a controlled, monitored setting. The cost of a residential stay starts at $2,000. Long-term stay, typically defined as lasting between 60 and 90 days, is sometimes necessary. If so, the cost of a long-term stay can be double.


This type of treatment allows people to remain at home for the duration and partake in a series of appointments, all with the goal of getting them clean, sober and healthier. This type of program can last up to three months; it costs anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.

The Insurance Quagmire

Once the costs of treatment are understood, the next step is to determine what assistance, if any, is offered through insurance. The problem here is that health insurance is an ever-changing animal and in constant flux depending on policy updates and governing bodies. Most private insurance does cover rehab. The Affordable Care Act mandates coverage for mental illness and substance use disorders. Public health insurance—Medicare and Medicaid is an alternative to those not on private plans or the ACA. However, no matter who supplies your insurance, not everything is covered and patients most likely end up paying for certain things out-of-pocket.

The Class System

Costs, resources, and limited access to both often mean that addicts fall victim to a class-based level of care. While wealthy people can afford treatment outright, they can often afford better quality treatment than their not as privileged counterparts. One of the main areas of concern with this particular barrier is what’s known as Medication Assisted Treatment, or MAT. Many programs that receive funding meant to help addicts of lower means do require their patients to be clean of any substances before entering a facility. If the detox process requires that patients to be on methadone, they are automatically ineligible for the program. This is a frustrating and counterproductive cycle to navigate.

Lack of a Support System

By the time an addict decides to look into rehabilitation, they’re often far into the battles of addiction that have worn on their friend and familial relationships. This makes for a shaky support system during the time an addict needs it the most. During the withdrawal process alone, there are many physical and psychological discomforts; working through that can be near impossible to do alone. Addicts need a lot of positive support and encouragement and close friends and family are often the best candidates for the job.

HIPAA Restrictions

Where there is family involvement, even the most patient people find the HIPAA walls to be extremely frustrating. While the restrictions and limitations to private information regarding one’s health are meant to be supportive, in reality, a lot of family members find themselves barred from the process altogether. They struggle to get the feedback needed to be part of an integrated team whose goal is to get their loved one on a healthy path.

The Need for Empathy

All of these barriers underline the idea that those who seek treatment for addiction need understanding and empathy, not shame and blame. It is a struggle all the way through and a little support can go a long way during such a tenuous time. To that end, if you or anyone you know needs rehabilitation, reaching out to SpringBoard Recovery is a great first step. We are happy to help and always approach our interactions with compassion and great hope for healing.


  1. American Psychiatric Association:
  2. Medical News Today:
  3. MedlinePlus:
  4. WebMD:
  5. NCBI:
  6. Verywell mind:
  7. Verywell mind:
  9. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
  10. NCBI:

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AUGUST 1, 2019

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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