Societal Outcomes And Cost Savings Of Drug And Alcohol Treatment In The State Of Oregon

Create by the Northwest Professional Consortium, February 1996

Full text – Societal Outcomes And Cost Savings Of Drug And Alcohol Treatment In The State Of Oregon – PDF, 29 pages

prepared for Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs Oregon Department of Human Resources by Michael W. Finigan, Ph.D.


This study was designed to overcome some of the methodological limitations of past studies of the benefits and costs of drug and/or alcohol treatment. To this end the research design has been created with the following characteristics:

  • A representative sample of treatment completers with a matched comparison group of clients who received little or no treatment
  • Use of existing state agency databases rather than self-report data for maximum objectivity
  • Adequate study period of two years prior and three years subsequent to treatment completion
  • With no statistically significant differences in arrest and conviction histories prior to treatment, treatment completers had significantly fewer arrests and convictions in the three-year period following treatment. For example, outpatient treatment completers were arrested at a rate 45% lower than the matched group during the three-year period subsequent to treatment.
  • Treatment completion is associated with substantially fewer incarcerations in the state prison system and with fewer days of incarceration. For example, residential treatment completers were incarcerated at a rate of 70% lower than the matched group.
  • In the period subsequent to treatment, treatment completers received 65% higher wages than those who didn’t complete treatment. This difference is due to improvement in earning power and in number of weeks worked.
  • The use of food stamps was reduced significantly for clients who completed treatment compared with those who were non-completers. Completers had only one-third the use of food stamps experienced by the early-leaver comparison group.
  • For clients who completed treatment, open child welfare cases decreased by 50% subsequent to treatment.
  • Medical expenses were substantially lower for those who completed treatment compared with the control group. For example, early-leavers showed a dramatic increase in the use of hospital emergency rooms during the period following treatment compared with the treatment group.
  • The 1991–92 cohort of treatment completers produced cost savings of $83,147,187 for the two and a half years following treatment. The cost for treating all adults in 1991–92 was $14,879,128. Thus, every tax dollar spent on treatment produced $5.60 in avoided costs to the taxpayer. This is most conservative for the following reasons:
  • No unemployment cost savings are included.
  • We can assume some benefit accrued to those clients treated for weeks and/or months but who did not complete treatment. These savings are not included in this study.
  • There are other potential cost avoidances not included in this study, e.g., federal and local prison costs saved, institutional costs avoided, intoxicated driver costs avoided, business losses avoided, healthy rather than drug-affected babies born, etc.
  • The accrual of positive societal outcomes resulting from alcohol and drug treatment were found to be significant for a period of at least three years.