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How to Get Help With Addiction if You’re Uninsured

Medically Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on April 20, 2022

Addiction can be hard to beat even when you have good insurance for treatments. But what if you’re uninsured and have no means to pay? Financial difficulty doesn’t have to keep you from getting help.

Free or low-cost services are out there. Some digging and a few phone calls can help clear your path to recovery.

Your First Steps to Addiction Treatment

Find out what type of treatment you need. You may need medically supervised detox if you’ve been addicted to a substance, or more than one, for a long time. This can help your body rid itself of drugs or alcohol while treating withdrawal symptoms. You may need this before treatment starts.

A good resource for learning about the different types of treatment is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The SAMHSA website can point you to treatment regardless of whether you have insurance. If you need advice over the phone, the agency runs a toll-free national hotline to refer you to programs where you live. It’s 800-662-HELP (4357).

If your health care is covered by the Veterans Administration, you can get addiction services through their substance abuse program. Learn about resources in your state here.

What Will Treatment Cost?

Treatment costs vary depending on the type of facility you need (or choose) and how long you need services for. You might need outpatient counseling, residential inpatient services, or hospitalization.

Every state provides funds for addiction services for the uninsured. Contact your state to see what’s available. SAMHSA keeps a directory of state agencies with websites, email addresses, and phone numbers.

In most states, you could be eligible for Medicaid if your income is less than about $18,000 as an individual or about $30,000 as a family of three. If you’re at least 65 years old and are eligible for Social Security, you can get coverage through Medicare. Both Medicare and Medicaid cover some addiction services.

Some facilities offer payment plans or sliding scales, where costs are adjusted to your income. You’ll need to provide an estimated annual income and include how many dependents you have. You can find out what counts as income on healthcare.gov.

You may also be able to get grants or scholarships to help with the cost of treatment. But these may not cover all the expenses. You may also be on the hook for the cost of your stay if you don’t complete your treatment.

Other ways to get help include:

  • Booking a single session with a therapist or an addiction medicine doctor. This may cost you a few hundred dollars, but the expert can provide an initial consultation and suggest next steps.
  • Asking local therapists if they provide a free brief session for new clients. You may get a good idea of what you need and what it could cost.

Where to Get Help

The Salvation Army. This nonprofit group runs more no-cost rehab centers than any other group in the United States. It helps people beat addiction through private and group counseling, work therapy, and life-skills development. The Salvation Army runs both intensive residential and outpatient programs. The group is Christian-based, but it welcomes people regardless of your religious practice.

Self-help and support groups. They can’t replace proper treatment. But they can give you the support you need to stick to that treatment. Nonprofit groups usually are free to join. Contact local hospitals, treatment centers, or faith-based organizations like churches or synagogues. These groups often coordinate substance-abuse support groups.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and similar ones, are called 12-step programs. These don’t work for everyone, but for some people, they can be very effective. In general, these have a spiritual base, but all faiths are welcome. In AA, for example, members are encouraged to take these basic steps:

  • Admit they can’t control their drinking.
  • Recognize a supreme spiritual being (of their choosing) that can give them strength.
  • Admit, with the help of another member who serves as a sponsor, that their drinking has hurt others.
  • Make amends to these people.
  • Develop a new code and lifestyle.
  • Help other people with alcohol use disorder beat their addiction.

Anonymity is important in this group, so members are free to work on their sobriety without fear of being revealed in the greater community. In-person meetings are held all over the U.S. and some are now online. You can download their app to easily find meetings. You also can check the AA website, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or Cocaine Anonymous (CA) to find meetings and learn more about the groups.

SMART Recovery. This free support group stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It provides recovery solutions for everything from alcohol, heroin, and opiates to smoking and gambling. Its approach is science based and leans heavily on psychological approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy. Its program is based on four points:

  • Build and maintain motivation
  • Cope with urges
  • Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Lead a balanced life

Over 3,000 meetings are held each week, plus more online. Try one by searching the SMART website.

Many organizations have online forums or chat groups too.

The bottom line: If you need help, reach out. Addiction is a treatable medical condition. Just as your willpower alone is not enough to treat heart disease, it won’t be enough to break the grip of addiction.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Alcoholics Anonymous: “A.A. and Anonymity,” “Meeting Guide.”

American Psychological Association: “APA Dictionary of Psychology: Twelve Step Programs.”

American Society of Addiction Medicine: “Definition of Addiction.”

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: “Alcoholics Anonymous and Other 12‐step Programs for Alcohol Use Disorder.”

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: “What About Costs and Insurance?”

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Support Groups: What about 12-step programs—Do They Work?”

Salvation Army: “About Us,” “We Give Kids Their Parents Back.”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): “Get Help,” “Paying for Treatment,” “Treatment Options.”

SMART Recovery:  “About Us,” “Frequently Asked Questions,” “There’s Life Beyond Addiction.”

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