Addiction doesn’t come free. Read about the costs associated with drug and alcohol abuse and how these illnesses are supported.

Typically, when we think about what addiction might cost someone, certain things come to mind, such as:

  • The cost of admission and care at a professional rehabilitation facility
  • Self-respect
  • Family relationships
  • Career
  • Health
  • Quality of life

This list goes on. While all of the above are certainly valid concerns, the cost that is often overlooked is that which society pays. What are tax-paying citizens giving up in order to support the approximately 23.9 million addicts living here, per 2012 data reported in the Journal of Addiction and Research Therapy?

Health Matters

Health care for substance abusers and addicts comes with a hefty price tag. American taxpayers end up footing the bill for a lot of costly procedures and services rendered to drug and alcohol users every year. This includes interventions for those on Medicaid as well as emergency services.

Another cost associated with addiction and drug or alcohol abuse is overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6,748 people are treated in US emergency rooms every single day due to the misuse of a drug, and 120 people die each day from drug overdoses. With little in the way of regulation on the price of said medical services and the medications being administered to these patients, the cost of these services and drugs can be exponential.

An estimated 45.9 million people in the United States suffer from mental illness, according to The Atlantic. In regard to substance abuse, 29 percent of individuals with mental illness also engage in drug or alcohol abuse, Helpguide reports. Frequently, the mentally ill turn to substance abuse as a means of self-medicating the symptoms that plague them. With proper treatment in the first place, these individuals may have never turned to drugs and/or alcohol at all. Thus, in the end, the cost of treatment includes both mental health care and substance abuse rehabilitation. As of 2005, Medicaid spending on treatments for behavioral health issues altogether reached $35.7 billion, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In some cases, substance abuse can actually cause mental health disorders, too.

Certainly, substance abuse isn’t good for your physical health either. Specific side effects and detriments to your health may vary depending on what you’re abusing, but many substances can cause the following issues:

  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Substance-induced psychosis
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Headaches

Associated costs

NIDA points out that alcohol abuse costs the economy around $185 billion each year, added to the $181 billion abuse of illicit drugs tacks on. Of course, every cost associated with substance abuse and addiction doesn’t come with a dollar sign. Sometimes the price to pay involves jail time. According to the Huffington Post, more than 50 percent of all inmates incarcerated in federal prisons as of March 2014 were behind bars due to drug-related crimes. These individuals lose years of their lives. While some states have enacted plans to better rehabilitate criminal drug offenders in lieu of locking them up, serious offenses are still coupled with long-term prison time, even in the most lenient of jurisdictions. The government — and thereby American citizens — ends up paying for the brunt of prison and jail-related costs, too, which can add up. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, it takes about $17,285 to house one inmate in federal prison for one year. This can add up quickly.

Of course, substance abusers themselves pay separate costs. Fees associated with minor drug crimes are generally minimal, but the long-term damage that drug and/or alcohol abuse does to one’s life is not. Generally, addiction will end up costing the addict some friends, either because they lost their lives to addiction or overdose, or they don’t do drugs and don’t approve of the addict’s use of them.

The majority of drug and alcohol abusers find it very difficult to hold down a job. Substance abuse issues always worsen over time, and an addict will not be able to continue to meet the same demands at work or be as productive as he has been in the past. Even if one is a functional addict or alcoholic, that can usually only be maintained for a limited period of time.

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.