Estimated Economic Impact of Substance Abuse Treatment in Sweden


"Care and treatment for drug users are considered by many to be costly and resources are often not enough. But the real waste is to refrain from treatment claim Swedish economists Ingvar Nilsson and Anders Wadeskog, who in particular have made analyses of the methadone programme in Stockholm (Nilsson and Wadeskog, 2008). With the help of experts and clients they carved out a number of courses that can be described as typical careers in addiction. They identified and priced around 150 different consequences that a life in alienation brings. Many of these effects are more or less invisible and difficult to detect. Their analysis indicates that an active heroin user on average costs society 2.1 to 2.3 million SEK per year. A large portion of these costs ceases or is reduced when the person stops or reduce their drug use.
"The cost of a place in the methadone programme is about SEK 100,000. The analysis shows that each invested krona gives 17 times the money back, which according to the researchers is equivalent to an annual return of 1778%.
"Drug users who are long-term drug-free without relapses give a return of between 50 and 150 times the money. But even those who have not been as successful generate a financial gain. One of the most important lessons according to Nilsson and Wadeskog is that everyone involved in the maintenance treatment - except those who very quickly leave treatment and return to drug use - contributes to the socio-economic gain. So it is important to nuance the view of what counts as success in treatment.
"The study identified a number of mechanisms that contribute to and reinforce marginalization. One of these is short-termism in decision making, where the financial year controls decisions. Another is the so-called 'downpipes effect', meaning that all instances only see their small part of the problem and no one tends to see and take responsibility for the big picture. It also means that most of the economic effects of marginalization are invisible to the individual decision-maker since they affect mainly budgets and sectors other than their own (Nilsson and Wadeskog, 2008)."


Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2012 National Report (2011 data) To the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Development, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2012, p. 25.