How Can I Afford Treatment for a Drug Addiction as a College Student?

Contributor:  Erica Smith, MA, NCC of Life Center of Galax.

dollar-837378_1280Life as a college student can be rough in many respects. For many individuals, finances can be a particular point of struggle during this time. So, when a college student finds him or herself battling an addiction, the thought of getting treatment can seem like a daunting, unaffordable option. But it does not have to be.

Insurance is Getting Better

Great strides have been made within various insurance companies, as well as within the composition of the Affordable Care Act, to ensure that individuals are able to receive the help they need when they are struggling with mental health concerns and substance abuse issues. As part of the efforts of the Affordable Care Act, coverage for mental healthcare and chemical dependency treatment are now supposed to be on an even playing field with traditional medical healthcare. This means that those individuals who are struggling with substance use disorders or other types of mental illness should have access to the same levels of care that they would receive if they were suffering from a medical concern.

first-aid-850482_1280There are a number of different options for health insurance coverage available to college students. First of all, many individuals can remain covered by their parents’ health insurance plans until they reach the age of 26. Additionally, many colleges and universities offer health insurance plans to their students. Another option is through Health Insurance Marketplace, which is where people can compare government healthcare coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act. When health insurance is obtained through any of these outlets, college students should then have access to receiving behavioral healthcare treatment, including treatment for substance abuse.

Treatment centers that provide care for addictions will work closely with insurance companies to get authorization for treatment. In other words, when a college student arrives at a treatment center in need of care for chemical dependency, a staff member at that particular treatment center should contact the student’s insurance company, verify his or her benefits, and then provide all of the information necessary to receive approval and authorization for treatment to begin. In speaking with the insurance company, the staff member at the treatment center should also verify what level of care will be covered by insurance, what specific services within that level of care will be covered, and the length of time that that coverage will last. If, for example, the insurance company authorizes 5 days of inpatient treatment, but then the student ends up needing to spend an additional 3 days in treatment, the treatment center staff should again contact the insurance company to advocate for the student and get more time added onto his or her coverage. Essentially all communication with the insurance company should be handled by the staff at the treatment center so that the student can instead place his or her sole focus on his or her recovery.

Payment Plans

rp_doctor-563428_1280-300x200.jpgIf a college student needs treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, yet does not have health insurance, there are many treatment centers that will work with him or her in regards to setting up a payment plan. In doing so, a student will be able to receive the treatment he or she needs without having to worry about covering the full cost of treatment up front. Such circumstances will vary depending on the particular treatment center, but inquiries can be made to find out the specific cost and payback requirements by contacting the admissions department at any treatment center.

While it may seem like addiction treatment is an unaffordable expense that would be best left ignored, this is simply not the case. The effects that can arise in an individual’s life when treatment is not sought can be far-reaching, long-lasting, and truly devastating. Not only does substance abuse put the physical health of individuals at risk, but it can also impact their mental health, their social interactions, their academic standings, their occupational abilities, and their overall wellbeing. For these reasons and more, seeking treatment for an addiction is imperative, and finding a treatment center that will work within one’s budget or within one’s health insurance limitations is not an impossible feat.

 Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you entered treatment for addiction as a college student?  What resources were used to pay for your treatment, what advice do you have to share?


“How Can I Afford Treatment for a Drug Addiction as a College Student?” was written by Life Center of Galax clinical team member, Erica Smith, MA, NCC. Erica has several years of experience working in the treatment field as a clinical therapist and has her Master’s degree in Clinical Community Counseling from the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University.

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, Life Center of Galax (http://galax.crchealth.com) has been providing life-changing addiction treatment services since 1973. The center is a national leader in the effort to help adult men and women who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction, as well as dual diagnosis concerns. Life Center of Galax offers both inpatient/residential and outpatient treatment programs, with specialized residential treatment tracks that are designed to provide truly unique and individualized treatment to each person who seeks care at this world-class center.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders.  These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.  We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.  

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 3, 2015. Published on AddictionHope.com