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The Cost of Addiction Treatment in Australia

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Addiction is a complex illness that affects millions of people globally, including Australians. It can have devastating effects on individuals and their families, including physical, emotional, social, and financial consequences. Many of those who suffer from addiction require professional help to overcome their addiction and regain control of their lives.

The unfortunate reality, though, is that drug addiction treatment can be costly. In fact, it is prohibitively expensive for many Australian citizens who need help the most. With that said, there are still many factors to consider when determining the total treatment cost. It’s a rather complicated subject, with the government and various organisations working towards making it more accessible and affordable. On the other hand, not many are eligible for this kind of help, and even if they are, actually receiving it comes with a lengthy waiting list. Time is a luxury that addicts in dire circumstances can’t afford. 

In this article, we’ll go over the costs of addiction treatment in Australia and what influences them. We’ll also take you through some other affordable, effective ways to break out of addiction and get help. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a better overview of just how expensive addiction recovery really is in Australia, what the government is doing to help, and how to get started on seeking out alternative approaches. 

Addiction Treatment Landscape in Australia

Therapist taking notes during a session

Australia has a comprehensive healthcare system that provides support for those struggling with addiction. There are a number of ways in which individuals suffering from addiction can get help, with both public and private options available. Additionally, the government provides funding for not-for-profit organisations that support people going through addiction.

There are three main types of addiction treatment programs available in Australia: 

  • Outpatient 
  • Inpatient
  • Community-based programs

Outpatient Treatment 

Outpatient programs are available in both public and private settings, and are designed for those with mild to moderate substance use disorders. This type of program allows individuals to attend counselling and other therapy sessions on an outpatient basis while still being able to continue their daily activities.

Outpatient Treatment Costs in Australia 

Outpatient treatment is significantly cheaper than residential options, but their costs can still accrue into a significant amount. A one-hour individual counselling session with a licensed therapist in Australia costs approximately A$60-180, whereas group therapy session prices fall between A$40 and A$80. 

Even with the bare minimum treatment plan consisting of an hour-long individual session every week, the therapy bills can quickly rack up to thousands of dollars. After factoring in the commute costs, prices of substitute medications that are often necessary for people coming off of hard drugs, as well as additional group sessions, outpatient treatment expenses in Australia can end up being prohibitively high for most addicts in difficult financial circumstances. 

With that said, outpatient therapy costs are still significantly smaller than those of inpatient programs, recommended for individuals with the most severe addictions. 

Inpatient Treatment 

Also known as residential programs, inpatient programs provide a more intensive level of care for those struggling with severe drug or alcohol addiction. These programs typically last for several weeks or months and require those receiving treatment to live on site at the treatment facility. They offer a highly structured environment where individuals can focus solely on their recovery.

Inpatient Treatment Costs in Australia 

The costs of inpatient treatment in Australia vary, depending on the type and standard of the facilities. Many residential programs take place in compounds largely resembling hospitals and don’t offer any additional services or activities beyond the base addiction treatment and medical attention. Others, on the other hand, are located in luxurious, five-star resorts, where patients get access not only to high-quality care, but also plenty of recreational facilities and activities that aid them in their recovery. 

A one-month-long inpatient program in Australia can cost anywhere from A$15,000 all the way to upwards of A$100,000 for the most luxurious of centres. Depending on the patient’s state and the severity of their addiction, one month may not be enough, which means a further increase in their expenses. 

In some Australian states, there are publicly-funded rehab centres. For example, Odyssey House is one organisation that offers public inpatient rehabilitation for people struggling with addiction. The main issue with these centres is the limited number of available beds. In the state of Victoria alone, there are only a few hundred public inpatient rehab beds available, resulting in waiting times of 6 months and above. The situation is similar in other states. Considering that the demand for inpatient alcohol and drug rehab in Australia is estimated to be at around 500,000 individuals, there aren’t nearly enough public rehab centres to make significant progress in resolving the addiction epidemic that’s plaguing the country. 

Community-Based Treatment 

Finally, community-based addiction treatment programs are run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or community groups. This type of program is designed to support individuals living in the community who may not have access to other forms of addiction treatment. Community-based programs may include peer support groups or mental health services that can be accessed on an outpatient basis.

Community-Based Treatment Costs in Australia

Mostly operated by NGOs and volunteers, community-based treatment solutions struggle with the same problems as public residential rehab centres and other publicly available programs – the lack of sufficient funding and manpower to help everyone in need. 

So while they’re free, community-based treatment methods in Australia are few and far between. With that said, however, they can still be valid recovery options, especially for addicts with mild to moderate addiction problems. Some of the most vital community-based addiction recovery services include: 

  • Free counselling sessions and group therapy: groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous operate across most of Australia’s towns and cities and can be a valuable line of support for addicts who are new to the recovery process. 
  • Withdrawal services: non-residential withdrawal services can help addicts deal with their withdrawal symptoms in a safe, controlled environment, with access to emergency medical help, if needed. 
  • Care and recovery coordination: addicts who are determined to have severe addiction issues that make them a threat to themselves and others can become eligible for recovery and care coordination until they are placed in a residential facility. It’s a valuable service that can help people set recovery goals and make effective use of the time until a rehab bed becomes available to them. 

The Role of the Government 

As we already mentioned, the government plays a significant role in addiction treatment in Australia. For the 2022-23 period, the Australian Department of Health has pledged A$372.4 million towards drug and alcohol treatment services across the country. This funding was distributed across various awareness initiatives, expanding public rehabilitation facilities, and research. 

Addiction Treatment and the Australian Public Healthcare System 

The public healthcare system in Australia is divided into two Medicare and the public hospital system. Medicare is Australia’s national healthcare program that provides free or subsidised medical services to eligible residents. Under Medicare, individuals can receive free access to public outpatient alcohol and drug treatment services.

Through the public hospital system, individuals can receive free emergency care if they have a severe drug or alcohol-related emergency. However, long-term addiction treatment within the public healthcare system is very limited due to high demand, as we have already outlined earlier.

Common Barriers to Affordable Treatment 

Group therapy session

Despite the availability of public and private addiction treatment options, barriers to accessing affordable addiction treatment still exist. The high cost of private treatment programs can be a significant barrier for those who can’t afford to pay for these services out of pocket. Additionally, people living in rural or remote areas may also find it challenging to access public outpatient treatment services due to long travel times and high commute costs.

Lack of Access to Public Healthcare 

Public healthcare services, such as free primary care and hospital treatments, are available in Australia. However, these services do not necessarily extend to all aspects of health, like addiction treatment. Patients usually pay to access some chargeable specialties like dentistry, optometry, and physiotherapy, which also includes mental health and substance abuse treatment. 

Moreover, public rehabilitation facilities have long waiting lists which can discourage those seeking help from continuing treatment programs. This is a particularly important problem, as it is recommended to begin treatment as soon as an addict expresses their willingness to break free from addiction. The longer they wait to begin treatment, the higher the likelihood of relapse. 

While public healthcare services are typically more affordable than private options, it is not always easy to determine what services are available or how to qualify for them. This can be especially difficult for those in remote areas of the country or individuals without access to reliable internet connectivity or transportation. 

Prohibitive Costs of Private Treatment Options 

Private addiction treatment is often the most accessible option for those who need immediate care. Oftentimes, the quality of care at private facilities far exceeds that of public rehab centres. However, the cost of private treatment can be steep. Fees for residential rehabilitation programs can cost thousands of dollars a week, which can add up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over several months.

For those who have insurance coverage, the cost of addiction treatment may be partially covered. However, insurance plans very rarely cover private inpatient addiction treatment stays. It also depends on the person’s individual policy plan – those that cover residential rehab are usually among the most expensive packages. Furthermore, even with the right insurance, there’s still the question of co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses that, when combined, amount to quite a lot of money as well. 

Stigma Associated with Addiction 

People struggling with addiction often face societal backlash and discrimination that makes it more difficult for them to seek help. Stigma related to addiction makes it more challenging for addicted individuals to access the necessary treatment because they may feel ashamed and embarrassed about receiving help.

While it’s not as much of an issue nowadays, stigma has historically prevented government officials from prioritising addiction treatment, resulting in a lack of funding and resources for public healthcare services for recovering addicts. Over the past couple of decades, loads of public funds have been dedicated to the criminal prosecution of drug users, or the so-called “war on drugs.” This has led to the situation we’re in today, where public healthcare providers struggle to meet the demand for addiction treatment due to being extremely underfunded. Even with the increased funding nowadays, it’s still going to take years, if not decades, to bring the public system up to speed.

Governmental Initiatives to Combat Addiction in Australia 

In recent years, the Australian government has taken steps to improve access to affordable addiction treatment services, such as the hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding mentioned above. 

While there is still much to be done, initiatives such as Medicare rebates for addiction treatment, funding for not-for-profit organisations and public initiatives aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding addiction are all steps in the right direction.

Medicare Rebates and Subsidies 

One of the ways in which the Australian government has tried to make affordable addiction treatment more accessible is by providing Medicare rebates and subsidies for certain programs. Medicare is Australia’s national healthcare system that provides coverage for medically necessary services, including addiction treatment.

In 2017, the government announced a range of reforms to mental health services, which included increasing the availability of Medicare benefits for mental health treatment. This means that individuals who are referred to a psychologist by a general practitioner can receive up to 20 subsidised sessions per year.

There are also additional subsidies available for certain types of addiction treatment. For example, individuals who require opioid substitution therapy (OST) can receive a subsidy for their medication under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The PBS is a government-funded system that provides subsidies for prescription medications, making them more affordable for individuals who need them.

Funding of Non-Profit Organisations 

Another way in which the government has tried to make addiction treatment more affordable is by funding not-for-profit organisations that provide addiction treatment services. For example, in 2018-2019, the Department of Health provided funding to 150 non-governmental addiction treatment services through the National Ice Action Strategy. These services provide a range of programs targeted at helping people who are struggling with addiction.

The National Ice Action Strategy is an initiative aimed at reducing the harm caused by methamphetamine use in Australia. It provides funding for community-based prevention and early intervention programs as well as support and treatment options for individuals affected by ice use. In 2022-23, the National Ice Action Strategy received further funding from the Department of Health. 

Seeking Addiction Help Outside of Australia 

Australians struggling with severe cases of addiction are often left feeling hopeless and overwhelmed by all the difficulties they have to overcome in order to get the treatment they need. Public programs come with increasingly long waiting times, and private alternatives can sometimes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even for someone who makes a decent wage and doesn’t struggle with poverty on top of their addiction, these barriers can effectively discourage them from seeking treatment. 

An option that most people fail to consider is going to rehab abroad. Located in picturesque resorts and costing a fraction of the price of Australian private centres, they offer top-quality medical and mental health services, as well as comfortable, luxurious facilities where recovering addicts can get used to a drug-free life in a safe, friendly, and beautiful environment. 

The Dawn: Affordable, Professional Addiction Treatment in Thailand

The Dawn patients meditating

Over the years, a growing number of inpatient rehabilitation centres have opened up across Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand. One of them is The Dawn. At our facility, located just outside of Chiang Mai, patients have access to top-notch physical and mental care, extracurricular activities, luxurious accommodation, and world-class cuisine. All that for a fraction of the price of similar rehab centres in Australia. 

Thanks to the lower living costs in Thailand, we were able to set up an inpatient treatment centre that rivals some of the best in the world. We employ Western clinicians who help our patients get back on their feet and overcome any health implications that may have arisen due to their addiction issues. Our support team consists of highly qualified nurses and staff members who are on-call 24/7, ready to assist patients with their immediate needs and concerns. 

Every patient receives a primary treatment plan that’s catered to their specific needs and requirements. Our treatment includes individual therapy sessions that are not only designed to help individuals overcome their addiction, but also understand themselves better, which leads to improved decision-making and impulse control once they return home. We’ve already helped many Australians get back on their feet. 

Read more about why Australians choose the Dawn

Our Offer 

At The Dawn, we believe in a holistic approach to addiction recovery. This means that aside from individual and group therapy, we also implement wellness therapy to provide our patients with a well-rounded set of activities that help them get through the day with smiles on their faces and hope for a better future. Here are just some of the services and facilities available to The Dawn patients: 

  • Private accommodation: our patients’ rooms come equipped with flat-screen TVs, high-speed internet access, and private balconies. They’re true personal sanctuaries where one can recover after a long day of therapy. 
  • Wide range of therapy options: from cognitive behavioural therapy through group therapy sessions, all the way to dialectical behavioural therapy, our staff are well-versed in a variety of approaches, allowing them to devise individualised plans for each patient.  
  • 24/7 medical care: regardless of the time, our medical staff members are on-premises around the clock, ready to provide assistance at a moment’s notice. 
  • Wellness therapy: we believe that rest and recreation are a vital part of the recovery process, which is why at The Dawn, we incorporate massages, yoga, physical exercise, and music therapy into our patients’ days, among others. 
  • Aftercare: recovery doesn’t stop the moment you leave our facilities. Our online aftercare program makes it easy for patients to check back in after they return home and continue working on themselves with the help of our therapists. 
  • Step-down program: after completing inpatient treatment, we continue to care for our patients by making the transition back into their day-to-day life in Australia as easy as possible through a carefully designed step-down program

Break Free From Addiction with The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand

Addiction treatment in Australia is extremely costly. Even if you’re not impoverished or otherwise financially struggling, booking a private residential rehab stay can set you back thousands of dollars. There are other ways to go about it, though. 

Costing just 2/3rd of the price compared to inpatient rehab centres in Australia, The Dawn’s residential treatment program in Thailand has treated dozens of Australian patients, helping them recover from addiction and return home to lead happy, sober lives. We pride ourselves in providing our patients with an alternative, affordable path toward recovery in the heart of sunny Thailand.

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