The Financial Toll of Addiction
If you’ve ever known someone who has suffered from addiction or have been that person yourself, you’ll know how much of an emotional toll it can have on you and your loved ones.
It can put a strain on your relationships and affect both your personal and professional life. Having an addiction also comes with serious health concerns. Abusing drugs can seriously harm your body and you may even have to deal with these issues for the rest of your life.
While the health issues and strain on relationships are usually the first things we all think about when it comes to drug addiction, don’t forget about the financial costs of substance abuse.
According to researchers, the economic burden of addiction in the United States is more than twice that of any other neurological disease.1 Of course, actually buying drugs in the first place can be costly, but there are additional expenses when it comes to healthcare, legal fees, and other social costs. Let’s not forget that often those addicted to drugs may end up with a loss of income.
Let’s look at the financial toll of addiction.
Addiction and Poverty
Addiction is by far most costly for the poor. If you’re at the poverty level, a pack of cigarettes per day can consume 10% of your family’s monthly income. Even worse, if you’re a heavy substance abuser, you might even be spending half or more of your monthly income on drugs.
Addiction can even create poverty in future generations. Due to your drug habits, your children may receive inadequate education and struggle with budgeting and time management. They may even mimic your habits and develop addictions themselves; something no one wants for their children.
Addiction is heavily associated with poverty, not just because substance abuse itself is expensive, but because addiction is often a means of escapism. Many people living in poverty abuse substances in order to avoid the serious problems they may be facing in their lives. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet, drugs can provide an instant gratification that is virtually absent in all other areas of your life.
Cost of Buying Drugs
If you have a substance addiction, paying for it can get expensive, regardless of the substance. Even something that can be cheap, such as alcohol, can drain your bank account over time, especially if you find you need to use more to get your desired effect.
To put this into perspective, if you drink a cheap $5 6-pack of beer every day, that’s $150 each month. That’s almost $1,000 in 6 months to support this habit.
Now switch out the $5 beer to a more expensive drug like, cocaine or heroin and the cost skyrockets. Some people can easily spend more than $10,000 each year to support their addiction.
Loss of Productivity and Income
Abusing drugs can make you significantly less productive. You may start to notice that you’re calling in sick to work more often and when you do make an appearance, the quality of your work is very sub par. Poor work performance can mean you miss out on promotions or bonuses, a cut back on shifts, or you could even lose your job.
Many addicts lose their jobs and remain unemployed as a result of their addiction. Others end up in jails, prisons, or long-term rehabilitation facilities, which can result in years of lost productivity. It can be difficult to get yourself back in the workforce after years of unemployment due to drug abuse.
Social security and retirement benefits can also be affected, so even after recovery, you could continue to experience the financial impact of your addiction for years.
Over a lifetime, addiction can cost an addict thousands of dollars in lost productivity potential.
Health Care, Insurance Costs, and Legal Fees
Being a drug addict can result in serious health problems. This is already a huge and life-threatening cost, however it also comes with increased health care fees and insurance premiums.
Another cost that may often be overlooked, is the increase in car insurance premiums and fines you incur as a result of your addiction. Getting arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may result in a 300% increase in your car insurance premiums, significant legal fees, and let’s not forget jail time.
Other payments you may need to make include fees for attorney services, educational courses, and drug-related fines.
The Costs of Addiction on Society
The costs of addiction on society are extremely high. Drug addiction costs society billions of dollars in health care expenditures, enforcement of drug laws, lost productivity, etc.
Addiction can also result in unpaid debts, missed payments, late fees, and foreclosure of property. According to research, excessive drinking alone cost the United States approximately $223 billion dollars in health care expenses, law enforcement costs, and lost productivity in 2006. In 2007, similar problems relating to illicit drug use cost the country another $193 billion dollars.1
For every $1 that is spent on substance abuse treatment, $4 is saved in health care costs and $7 is saved in law enforcement costs. Drug abuse treatment not only saves lives—it saves billions of dollars as well.
1. Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2012). Cost benefits of investing early in substance abuse treatment.