The cost of substance abuse on your personal life, health, and career are usually pretty apparent. The financial cost of addiction can be a little more covert. While everyone’s experience with a substance use disorder is different, there are some financial costs of addiction that seem to fit across the board in one way or another. These consequences could take the form of economic costs, legal issues, damaged relationships, and lost property.
How Much Does a Drug Addiction Cost?
The individual cost of drug abuse depends on the substance abused, the amount abused, and the frequency of abuse. Drugs cost money, and when you become dependent on them, drugs can pull you into a spiral of use, addiction, and crime. Substance abuse changes your brain, making it think it needs drugs to function. This can cause you to act uncharacteristically. The cost of substance abuse can steer people toward:
- Selling their belongings or loved ones’ belongings
- Draining savings
- Petty theft
- Sex work
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that addiction costs America around $600 billion dollars every year. Addiction’s cost to society comes in the form of health care, law enforcement, criminal justice, lost wages, treatment, and drug-related crimes.
Vice Magazine profiled people on the cost of being a substance abuser. One of them was a young woman who started using cocaine in her early 20s, paying $60 per gram of cocaine. At the peak of her problem, she spent upwards of $3,700 a week on her substance use disorder, which averaged between $450 and $1,200 a day. As her addiction got worse, she turned to prostitution to maintain her drug supply, and most of the money she made from sex work went into buying more cocaine.
Territorial governments and states in the U.S estimate the opioid epidemic has cost them around $630 billion dollars between 2007-2020. Economists believe that cost could rise to over $2 trillion dollars over the next two decades. One individual with an opioid addiction told Vice Magazine that the total of $200,000 he spent on prescription opioids (in particular, hydromorphone) was only a “conservative estimate” because it did not include the LSD, cocaine, and alcohol he was also taking at the time. The man spent around $75 a day, paying $3 for a 4 mg hydromorphone pill. Another opioid abuser told Vice that many people he knew that were addicted to heroin committed armed robberies to fund their need. While this man didn’t resort to crime, he claims he spent “$10,000 in four months,” losing his family, career, and retirement savings.
For other people, breaking the law is part of the equation. One man confessed that during his teenage years, he would spend $60 for a gram of crack cocaine (spending roughly $225 a day), stealing everything from electronics and jewelry to feed his addiction. Before he attended drug and alcohol rehab, he spent around $150,000 on substances.
The Cost of Addiction and Crime
The criminal justice system is a significant factor in the cost of substance abuse. One in five prisoners are incarcerated because of a drug offense. People who turn to crime to fund alcohol and drug abuse tend to stay away from violent crimes, although there are exceptions. Mostly, they commit theft, property crimes, and drug trafficking.
Women substance abusers are particularly at risk because they are often exploited by sex traffickers to trade sexual favors for drugs. This is a significant issue in rural areas like West Virginia, where women (and some men) who became addicted to oxycodone and hydrocodone have turned to the streets. One explanation is that there aren’t many other ways to make enough money to support drug addiction in these areas. A number of women are forced into prostitution by pimps who promise drugs in return for their services. This is behind much of the demand and supply of prescription drugs (and similar contraband). Sex trafficking is a crime of opportunity, and much of that opportunity hinges on the desperate need for opioids that many of these women have.
The Cost of Substance Abuse and Driving
The costs and consequences for driving under the influence (DUI) are very high. Law enforcement and the criminal justice system work diligently to send a message to people who drive under the influence and put their lives and the lives of others in danger.
Each state has its own penalties and fines for driving under the influence. The average cost of a DUI is around $6500. This number depends on various costs such as:
- Lawyer fees
- Fines by the court
- Car insurance increases
- Car towing and storage
- Substance abuse courses or traffic school
- Mandated handheld car breathalyzer devices
If you are a repeated offender, the court may require that you enter a professional addiction treatment program, which will increase the price tag of a DUI. The $6500 figure also doesn’t account for time lost from work if you must attend court dates, probation appointments, community service, or drug rehab.
Convicted DUI offenders are also on the hook for the costs associated with court paperwork and court appearances. The length of the case and the severity of the DUI charge determine the amount of the court costs, but it’s usually in the hundreds.
If another individual was injured or killed as the result of the drunk driving incident, state funds pay restitution to the victim and/or their families. If you are responsible for the crash, you’ll be charged for the restitution fund, which depends on the state and severity of the injury. Other potential fees include a DMV reissue fee (to get your driver’s license back after a mandatory suspension) and an insurance premium increase.
The Cost of Addiction on Relationships
A substance abuse problem affects everyone in your life, especially relationships with friends and family members. One study found that 48% of people who struggled with alcohol abuse at the time of the study (or at any time before it) went through a divorce at some point in their lives. Additionally, couples where at least one partner suffered from a substance use disorder were four times more likely to separate than couples where there was no concern of addiction. Divorce isn’t cheap, financially or emotionally. It’s not uncommon for divorce to bankrupt one partner and cause significant emotional damage to children. The Business Insider reports the average cost of a divorce in the U.S. at around $15,000, but it can be much higher depending on how much property is involved, custody conflicts, and other factors. A high-conflict or contested divorce can run you upwards of $50,000.
The Cost of Substance Abuse on Your Living Situation
Addiction has many other legal ramifications, including loss of property and living space. Landlords have legal grounds to evict you if they believe you’re engaging in dangerous or unsafe health violations, which covers drug use. Many people are forced to move or sell their houses because substance abuse has depleted their finances.
The Cost of Addiction on the Workforce
It is not uncommon for people struggling with a substance use disorder to struggle in the workplace. After all, the many effects of alcohol and drug addiction can negatively impact work performance and team cohesion, resulting in:
- Lost wages
- Lost promotions
According to researchers at the University of Chicago, each employer with an untreated substance use disorder costs companies $8,817 every year. Typically, missed work accounts for two weeks due to illness, travel, vacation, or other reasons, but workers with substance use disorders miss nearly 50% more days than their counterparts. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that each employee loss costs the company around one-third of that position’s salary. This cost includes things like:
- Temporary workers
- Recruiter fees
- Training time
- Lost productivity
On a positive note, employees in recovery who received treatment in the past, and who have not had a relapse within 12 months, miss the fewest number of days at the office, even among the general workforce.
How Addiction Costs Society
The Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University explains that “everyone” pays for the cost of addiction. The costs associated with addiction impacts society in ways like:
- Employers and employees pay more for their health insurance premiums.
- Consumers pay for higher priced goods and services.
- Taxpayers are charged with paying for public health, health care costs, law enforcement, criminal justice, and incarceration.
- Foster care and homeless shelters, facing a mountainous backlog of cases of patients who desperately need help, rely on public funds and donations.
Economically speaking, the cost of substance abuse stunts financial growth and drains future investments of necessary resources.
Life Can Be Better
The cost of rehab is minimal compared to the financial, personal, professional, and medical costs involved in addiction. Footprints to Recovery can help you stop the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse. We offer evidence-based treatment and behavioral health care. At our treatment centers, you’ll address the underlying causes of addiction like co-occurring disorders and trauma, and learn a healthier, more fulfilling way of life.
Levels of care at our treatment centers include: