Drug abuse is dangerous and potentially deadly, but it is a huge financial drain as well. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that substance abuse costs American society at least $484 billion per year. By comparison, other devastating diseases cost much less, with the annual societal costs of diabetes at $131.7 billion per year and the costs of cancer at $171.6 billion annually.

These financial costs are made up of lost earnings, healthcare costs, and the costs that accrue from accidents and criminal activity.  The effects ripple outward from the person with the addiction, affecting everyone directly or indirectly. As high as these costs are, addiction treatment is an investment with a positive return.

Financial Costs of Addiction

Financial costs of addiction come not only from the price paid for the substances themselves but also costs of consequences of substance abuse. Automobile crashes, violence, and child abuse, for example, all come with steep costs attached, some of which are paid by the addict or their family, and others of which are paid by society as a whole.

If you ever wondered about the baseline cost of an addiction, online calculators can tell you exactly how much that alcohol, daily illicit substance, or pack-a-day habit is draining from your pockets (and your family’s resources). Add to that costs like incarceration costs (with as many as 60 percent of adults in federal prisons being there due to drug convictions), the cost of homelessness, and missed work, and it is easy to see how drug addiction costs nearly half a trillion dollars per year.

Physical Costs of Addiction

The short-term effects of drug use are obvious, but the long-term effects are often subtler. Nevertheless, over time substance abuse devastates the physical health of the human body. Individual physiology, the type of substance, amount, and length of addiction all affect how big a toll substance abuse takes on the body, but in every case, addiction is physically harmful over the long term.

Over time, drug abuse increases the risks of lung disease, mental illness, HIV, hepatitis, and even cancer. Changes in brain physiology affect how people experience normal pleasures in life, how well people can manage stress, and their ability to use their brain due to problems with short- and long-term memory. When drug abuse leads to violence, injuries can range from minor to life-threatening.

Mental and Emotional Costs of Addiction

Mental illness and substance abuse disorders frequently occur together. In some ways, it is a “chicken or egg” conundrum, where it is difficult to tease apart whether the substance abuse disorder or the mental illness came first. Regardless, a long list of substances is associated with mental health problems, including cocaine, LSD, MDMA, prescription stimulants, opioids, and alcohol.

Aside from mental illness, substance abuse simply hurts people, leading to fracturing of families, long-term resentments, and disruption of the bonds between parents and children, husband and wife, or other family dynamics.

Addiction Treatment as an Investment in Life

Addiction treatment costs money, and it requires an investment of time and emotions. However, successful recovery from substance abuse has a positive return on investment that has the potential to last a lifetime, opening up possibilities that would not exist in a state of chronic addiction.

As just one example, every dollar spent on alcohol addiction treatment results in healthcare savings of $12, and that does not even consider the positive effects on family life and professional life. The ROI of heroin treatment is comparable, and the intangible effects, such as a healthier family life, are even more valuable. There is no question that addiction treatment is an investment that pays off.

The costs of drug abuse to the individual, the family, and society are staggering, but there is no reason to lose hope. Addiction treatment that is personalized and geared to the individual and his or her life can be effective, over time turning around those high physical and emotional costs and allowing the person to live a happy, productive life that benefits society rather than costing it. Are you ready to make the investment in your future by committing to addiction treatment? If so, we invite you to click here to learn more about admissions.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.