Some substances that are considered dangerous drugs when abused, like paint thinner or aerosols, are cheap and widely available. On the other hand, other drugs, such as cocaine, cost almost $100 per gram.
All the same, a drug addiction exacts a steep price from people across social classes, backgrounds, ages, and nationalities. Here’s a summary of the financial cost of drug addiction in the USA, as well as other intangible costs that one must consider when examining the true price of addiction.
The Financial Toll of Drug Addiction
The Economic Burden of Drug Addiction in the USA
Drug addictions are financially demanding, and many Americans spend a significant amount of money just to acquire drugs. According to the RAND Corporation, Americans’ spending on cannabis, cocaine, and methamphetamine alone neared $150 billion in 2016. The result of all this spending, however, comes at an even bigger cost to the US government. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) most recent numbers peg the cost of drug abuse—including alcohol and tobacco abuse—to be at least $740 billion. Conversely, the National Drug Intelligence Center (NIDC) estimates that illegal drug abuse costs the US government $193 billion, while prescription drug abuse causes an economic burden of $78.5 billion.
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The same agency estimates annual drug-related healthcare costs to be at $11 billion, which is borne by the US healthcare system. These comprise medical interventions and inpatient drug treatment, as well as prevention and treatment research. Emergency department visits that are related to drug abuse account for up to $161 million. And aside from costs that are directly related to drug abuse, the US healthcare system also spends on treating the adjunct health effects of drug use, like the spread of communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C through the use of contaminated paraphernalia.
The cost of drug use weighs heavily on the US criminal justice system as well. The latest estimates of the NDIC attribute up to $56 billion in costs to the justice system just for drug-related crime. The biggest culprits are crimes related to crack cocaine and methamphetamine use. Heroin use, on the other hand, factors into a number of property crimes committed in the US.
Common Personal Financial Problems Caused by Drug Use
Drugs exact a steep price on the institutions whose goal is to address addictions and addiction-related crimes. But the financial toll of substance use disorder also weighs heavily on the user, their friends and families, and the generations that come after them. If the drug addiction is not addressed, the following financial problems may happen to the user.
- They will spend excessively on drugs. The more severe the person’s drug addiction gets, the more compelled they will be to spend money on larger amounts of the substance. Even cheaper drugs will rack up considerable expenses if the person’s substance use disorder continues. Before the user or anyone else in their family knows it, they will have formed alarming spending habits on drugs. Heavy substance users might spend up to 10% or more of their income on a drug habit, leaving little for savings, food, rent, and other essentials.
- They will have trouble meeting their financial obligations. An addiction to drugs essentially hijacks the brain’s reward system, which may make a person less motivated to meet important daily obligations. Their sense of fulfillment in earning a certain amount of income or being able to pay for rent may dissipate in favor of drug use. And in the worst-case scenario, the user or their loved ones will have to face the consequences of not meeting these financial obligations.
- They will fall into debt. A drug addiction can quickly bring the user’s finances and that of their household into the red. Their depleted savings may have them struggling to pay bills on time or to put food on the table. The family may be forced to borrow money or live without certain necessities because funds have already been funneled into the user’s drug habit.
- Their children or grandchildren will have to pay the consequences. There’s a chance that the cost of the addiction will haunt not only the user, but the next generations. In case the user cannot pay off debts from drug use in their lifetime, the burden may be inherited by their children or grandchildren. The debt caused by drug use—as well as consequent medical care, fines and penalties, and the like—may take decades to pay off.
What Are the Other Costs of Drug Addiction?
Most of the time, when we think of drug addiction, we just think of the monetary costs that are directly related to drug abuse. But there are other costs besides, both tangible and intangible, that drug addiction may inflict on a user and their immediate circle. Aside from one’s financial resources, drugs can also tax one’s physical health, one’s relationships, and one’s good standing in their community. Here are other aspects of a person’s life that a drug addiction will take a heavy toll on.
It’s no secret that a prolonged drug addiction will negatively impact one’s physical health. Lasting health issues that a substance user may have to pay for are the following:
- Damage to their organs and bodily systems, such as the nervous system, heart, throat, stomach, liver, lungs, and pancreas
- Increased risk of getting certain forms of cancer, for example lung or throat cancer from smoking dangerous substances
- Increased risk of contracting communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS from shared injecting equipment
- Increased risk of getting into accidents and getting severely injured
- Changes in pain perception
- Collapsed veins from regular drug injections
- Harm to unborn child if the user is pregnant
The exact health detriments that drugs will inflict on a person depend on the substance used, the severity of the addiction, and other factors. But all the same, the effects of drug addiction to one’s physical health can be lasting in nature and can be very costly to deal with.
Mental and Emotional Health
Drug addictions also wreak havoc on users’ mental and emotional health, and such damage is usually both difficult and costly to recover from. Again, the extent of the damage depends on the drug being used and the user’s personal circumstances. Nevertheless, these are some of the common issues to watch out for.
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- Insomnia and interruptions to sleeping habits
- Problems in memory, decision-making, and retaining information
- Distorted sense of reality, especially after using hallucinogenic drugs
- Mood swings and erratic behavior
- Frequent feelings of confusion, anxiety, lethargy, or paranoia
- Increased risk of drug overdose and death by suicide
At best, the user’s loved ones will only have to pay the costs of their therapy and medication. At worst, however, the family could lose someone forever to the drug addiction. Thus, it is extremely important to curb the addiction early and prevent these issues from taking hold.
Addictions also cause strain in the user’s personal relationships. There are different ways that a drug habit can weigh on the user’s relationship with their family, friends, coworkers, romantic partner, and the like. Here are the aspects of the user’s human relationships that could be adversely affected by their drug addiction.
- Trust in relationships may be broken because the user is dishonest about their drug use and their whereabouts.
- The user’s loved ones may suffer from neglect due to the time, money, and other resources the user puts into drugs instead.
- Those close to the user may stop trusting them with handling important obligations, like taking care of children.
- Once-pleasant environments, like one’s home, can begin to feel volatile and unsafe because of the presence of drugs.
Drug addiction is a serious illness that prevents the user from focusing on their relationships. Though relationships ruined by drug use can get better over time, there may come a point when they are damaged beyond repair. The addiction must be addressed immediately before it is too late to save important relationships in the user’s life.
Reputation and Career
Another steep cost of drug addiction is the lasting damage it leaves on one’s good name. A drug addiction may prevent a person from being upwardly mobile in their career or school life. A history of addiction will also make it more difficult to leave a good impression on the community. Some examples of the social costs of drug addiction include the following:
- Difficulty in attaining good grades
- Difficulty finding job prospects
- Difficulty getting recommended for a job promotion
- Difficulty in getting endorsement for leadership positions in church, clubs, organizations, or political office
- Having a record with law enforcement due to past drug-related crimes
It should never be too late for someone to recover from drug addiction and be given a second chance in society. But one must actively do something about the problem in order to win back their good name and regain society’s trust in them. If your loved one is struggling with an addiction, emphasize how important it is for them to regain their agency and return to normal life.
How Can We Reverse the Rising Cost of Drug Addiction?
We can all do our part in ensuring that drug addiction does not claim more money, time, and precious human life than it already has. Here’s what you can do to reverse the climbing costs of drug addiction in your own community.
- Watch for the signs. Early response is vital in combating drug addiction. The longer a drug addiction goes unaddressed, the higher the monetary and social costs will be. If you see drug-related problems happening with your own loved ones, don’t wait to get help. It will save you and your loved one a lot in the long run.
- Acknowledge the value of intervention. Thinking about the costs of inpatient or outpatient rehab, continuing care, and other recovery expenses may overwhelm you. Costs like these may also weigh on you if your loved one has relapsed. But don’t forget the value of these interventions and that, in the long term, they’re better than dealing with the cost of a prolonged addiction.
- Advocate holistic approaches to drug abuse prevention. Drug addiction is a problem that goes beyond one’s individual health and circumstances. It also has to do with complex social issues, like family life and livelihood. Your community can remain drug-free if you advocate for programs that provide a way out of drug use. Some examples are youth groups, faith-based groups, or community livelihood programs. If you can get involved and inspire those around you to do so, fewer people may resort to drugs. That will make them freer of the financial burden and other troubles that come with them.
Better Addiction Care is your partner in keeping dangerous drugs out of your environment. Here, you can find all the information you need about substance use disorder, its treatment, and how to recover from the toll of drug addiction. If you or someone you know is battling addiction, call (800) 429-7690 today to get help.