$38 Billion U.S. Addiction Rehab Industry Pivots to Cope During Covid-19 Pandemic

addiction treatment industry data 2020Drug and alcohol addiction rehab in the United States is big business — an estimated $38 billion. There are now 14,000+ private treatment facilities and growing. 

The pandemic has been a mixed bag for treatment centers, with a silver lining. The crisis has accelerated the shift to telemedicine and the loosening of regulations over access to much-needed medications. As a result, more patients now have access to care.

An estimated 53 million Americans aged 12+ were illicit drug abusers in 2018, according to government agencies. An estimated 4-6 million are opioid abusers, a figure that has soared in recent years. During the current pandemic, not only has the supply of illicit drugs become more unpredictable, but the drugs are also more likely to be contaminated. The pandemic is disrupting supply lines of illegal drugs, leading patients to cut the substances with whatever they can find. Overdoses are rising.

Things to Know About the Addiction Treatment Industry

  • Revised 2020 market forecast: Marketdata analysts estimate that the drug, alcohol and other addictions treatment industry will be worth $38.2 billion this year, lower than the original $42.1 billion expected. 5.2% annual growth in revenues is forecast through 2025, reaching $48 billion. 2021 could be a strong growth year, after a Coronavirus vaccine is found and pent up demand produces a wave of new and existing patients.

  • Addiction rehab operations: Most addiction treatment centers have remained open during the pandemic, but many are seeing reduced patient caseloads, as much as 30% to 50% lower than normal. Industry revenues in 2020 are forecast to decline by 13%.

  • Industry consolidation: Due to expected failures, Marketdata expects a 5% decline in the number of specialty treatment facilities in operation, to 14,560 nationwide. American Addiction Centers, a leading provider, has already filed for bankruptcy.

  • Treatments for addiction: There is major shift away from inpatient to more, less costly outpatient treatment during the pandemic.

  • Financial challenges: Pressures are increasing for treatment centers, as states cut their funding due to lower tax revenues resulting from the recession. The industry has appealed for government relief but is still waiting.

  • The shift to telemedicine/virtual visits: This has resulted in more substance abuse patients receiving care — a good thing. Increasing telehealth and loosening prescribing laws (for buprenorphine, methadone) during the pandemic have revealed the merits of lowering barriers to treatment. Normally, prescribing these medications requires an in-person evaluation.

Where to Learn More

For more details and a complete table of contents, see Marketdata’s January 2020 report (The U.S. Addiction Rehab Industry), and July 2020 Covid-19 Update (included free with January 2020 report).

About the Author:  John LaRosa is the President of Marketdata LLC and is the author of 100+ industry and market studies. His research appears in top media outlets including ABC, CNN, Fox, ForbesUSA TodayThe Wall Street JournalThe New York Times, and a variety of trade journals. 

Topics: Healthcare Industry Insights