Drug use is not cheap – far from it, in fact. One of the reasons drug addiction is so ruinous is because getting addicted is often tantamount to financial suicide, even for the well-off.
Without meticulous financial planning, it’s easy to blow the majority of your money on a habit you cannot control, and cannot stop – and addicts use as per their economic capabilities, choosing pricier drugs when they have the finances to do so, and choosing cheaper drugs when they struggle to rub two cents together.
This is one of the reasons crime is often linked to addiction – not only is drug use and drug possession criminalized, but many have to turn to crime as the only viable way to continue to support their habit after several ruinous years of addiction have led to the dissolution of a career, and the loss of any saved up finances.
Yet exactly how much does addiction cost? The costs associated with drug use go far and beyond the financial, although that alone is staggering enough to make it worth a hefty mention.
The price of drug use varies immensely from drug to drug, and for every drug, there are varying degrees of purity and substance quality. Those with more money can choose higher quality stuff – those with less money often must resort to sharing needles, buying drugs cut with dangerous fillers, and risking their lives for a quick and potentially fatal fix.
The Price of Drug Use
Some drugs are more expensive than others, but no drug habit is cheap. From expensive stimulants like quality cocaine, to the cost of a hefty marijuana habit, to the massive expenses of nursing an opioid addiction, to the costs of the everyman drug, alcohol – there is no shortage of ways in which an addiction can rob someone of every potential dollar.
Prescription drugs are arguably the most expensive, particularly for those hooked on prescription pain pills. The estimated annual cost for a prescription pain pill addiction can range anywhere from abut $3,500 a year to over $70,000 a year, depending on the drug used, the quality of the drug, and whether it’s obtained ‘legitimately’ or through the streets.
Heroin isn’t much cheaper, commanding costs of up to $54,000 a year. Users that are in deep will often spend well over a $100 a day on a fix, with a single dose costing up to $20. Heroin can cost up to $500 per pure gram. The cheaper the heroin, the more dangerous it is, as it’s often cut with any number of additives from baby powder to the deadly fentanyl.
Known as one of the priciest drugs on the market, pure cocaine commands a price of up to $150 per gram, although most cocaine addicts buy it at lower purity levels, with costs ranging from $80 to $100. Every gram can be further cut into about 25-30 portions, or about ten lines.
Cocaine is snorted, although some later turn to injecting it to get a stronger high with less substance. This, in turn, raises the risks of an overdose. Someone with a serious cocaine addiction can consume well over a gram a day, totaling over $36,000 a year – although most spend less.
While legal, the cost of booze is still significant, and varies extremely. Some might exclusively consume fine wines, yet still be an alcoholic, with costs totaling well over $10,000 a year. On the other hand, many self-reported heavy drinkers (distinct from alcoholism) reportedly spend anywhere from $4,500 to $6,000 annually, without being addicted.
For those with fewer resources, cheap liquor, home brewed beer, and moonshine, as well as surrogate alcohol items such as mouthwash, hand sanitizer, aftershave, or antifreeze can nurture an addiction.
The average costs don’t accurately reflect any given case, as an addict can spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over $100,000 on their habit in any given year, depending on the drug and how severely they have been abusing it.
Many struggle with an addiction to not only one but several substances, complicating the price. Furthermore, the cost of illicit substances change, and availability changes as well, affecting the final calculation.
For many families, however, the costs of addiction are not only serious, but ruinous.
The Healthcare Costs
The estimated societal costs of drug addiction are very high.
Tobacco and alcohol rank among the two most expensive and devastating drugs in the United States, killing the most people as a result of smoking and drinking-related illness (480,000 and 88,000 people respectively) and costing a total of over half a trillion dollars in economic costs, calculated as productivity costs, legal expenses, medical expenses, and accident-related expenses.
Illegal drug abuse accounts for roughly $193 billion lost, while the costs of prescription drug use total at $78.5 billion.
Not accounted for in these calculations are the healthcare costs of drug-related HIV and hepatitis cases, the healthcare costs of the effects of addiction on children during fetal stages, the costs of drug-fueled unemployment, homelessness, and crime, as well as the non-financial costs of losing thousands every year to drug overdose deaths.
The Psychological Cost
Drug addiction is heavily linked to the development of mental health problems, either as a result of the neurological damage caused by long-term drug abuse, or because a significant portion of people affected by mental health conditions seek drugs as a form of self-medication, often inadvertently worsening their condition.
The long-term cost of drug use plays out in the form of mental and psychological deficits, as people struggling with drug addiction often also struggle with cognitive problems as a result of their addiction.
Abstinence and long-term sobriety can help the brain heal, but some damage is permanent. Drug-related disability is particularly common among former heroin addicts, as a non-fatal overdose can lead to paralysis as a result of brain damage.
Other causes of disability and paralysis include drug-induced strokes, from alcohol or cocaine, as well as injuries caused while under the influence.
Rehab Is Much Cheaper
It is estimated that the cost of drug addiction versus the cost of rehab is about 7 to 1 on average. Even in cases where the addiction was short-lived, intervening with a treatment plan often means not only saving a family hundreds of thousands of dollars, but saving the life of a loved one.
Without treatment and management, many addictions one day lead to overdose, and death.
The costs of drug use involve more than just money. Drug addiction can rob a person of their family, their job, their purpose, and their will to live. Many begin using at a young age and can’t quit for a number of financial and psychological reasons. Others are stuck in a cycle of abstinence and relapse.
Addiction must be addressed in the long-term, giving addicts a way to avoid temptation and focus on their recovery, and develop the tools to deal with relapses in a productive and healthy way.
Sober living homes provide one such opportunity, differing from traditional rehab programs by giving recovering addicts the option to stay in the drug-free facility for as long as needed.