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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to estimate the costs of medical detoxification among patients with alcohol and substance abuse disorders.

Design/methodology/approach – The study data was drawn from a medical detoxification program in a community hospital in Texas. Secondary data analysis of 1337 cases from three years was reviewed. Age, gender, race, alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines, sedatives, opioids, financial classification, cost, length of stay (LOS) and cost by LOS were analyzed using Kruskal-Wallis test and Mann-Whitney U-test.

Findings – The sample comprised of 42.8 percent women and 57.2 percent males. The mean cost and cost by LOS was highest for cocaine ($2560.1 and $1,044, P<0.01), while opioid and cannabis ($815.5, p<0.01; $823.7, p<0.01) had significantly higher values than the rest. In each individual drug detoxification class, except for amphetamines, the mean and median LOS has been reported to be less among the uninsured category compared to privately insured subjects. In addition, the cost by LOS was also found to be higher in the uninsured group compared to those with private insurance. Subjects who were uninsured and abused alcohol had higher median costs of detoxification (P<0.01) by LOS.

Research limitations/implications – Further in-depth analysis for confounding and interactions between variables is warranted.

Originality/value – This research provides an estimation of LOS of a medical detoxification program by financial class in the USA and illustrates that early discharge of uninsured and Medicaid patients can be attributable to aggressive case management practices, interrupting the normal course of care.


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