The Many Financial Effects of Addiction

If you or one of your loved ones struggle with addiction then there are a number of challenges that you’ll have to face. One of the most obvious difficulties you will face will be financial strain. There are lots of different ways in which addiction can wreak havoc on a person’s finances.

In this article, we will describe some of the most common ways that drug users and alcoholics often struggle with their finances. By understanding this, you will be able to make better decisions and encourage people who are living with an active addiction to do so as well.

Addiction and Poverty

Addiction is commonly associated with poverty. There are a few reasons for this, and this fact is apparent on both sides of the poverty issue. People who live in poverty are more likely to experience addiction, and people who develop addictions are far more likely to end up in poverty.

Let’s take a look first at people who already live in poverty. These people will likely be much more impacted by the financial cost of addiction. For example, someone who is addicted to something as commonplace as cigarettes may have to spend a great portion of their daily income just to afford a pack of cigarettes.

These problems are further exacerbated if people who live in poverty are addicted to more expensive drugs. In this situation, they may simply not make enough money to afford their addiction as well as their food, their home, their school, etc.

Unfortunately, addiction is so powerful that it often takes precedence in situations like these. This means that these people will become more likely to commit illegal acts like thievery in order to find their addiction.

On the other hand, addiction can send even the most financially stable people into poverty. When you have a lot of money, it becomes easy to forget how costly your addiction is becoming. You may begin to think that you can use as much as you want without having it affect your finances.

Unfortunately, this is a sure fire way to develop a very strong addiction. The more addicted you become, the more money you will be spending on your addiction. It’s not hard for your addiction to spiral so far out of control that you spend your entire savings or put yourself into debt without realizing it.

Some people spiral so far into addiction that they end up losing their jobs, their houses, and their entire support network. In more serious cases, the struggling users may end up completely homeless. When this happens, it becomes all the more difficult for them to attain a job. When people are stuck in the cycle of homelessness and addiction, it may feel like things are hopeless. This can create negative emotions that will further push them into addiction.

The Cost of Drugs

The price of drugs and alcohol is also one of the most important considerations. Drugs and alcohol can vary significantly in price. The quality of the drugs will have a huge impact on the price. Bottom-shelf liquor, for example, will not cost nearly as much as high-end drinks.

Another thing to consider is the development of tolerance. As you become more tolerant to drugs and alcohol, you will require a higher dosage to feel the same effect. This means that the cost of your addiction will continue to rise as it becomes more serious.

This is one of the reasons that people end up in poverty because of addiction. At first, the addiction may seem sustainable. However, as things progress to a more intense level, it becomes increasingly obvious that not only do the drugs become more expensive, but the addiction becomes less controllable.

At this stage the addiction is no longer manageable and even those purchasing the cheapest substances may easily run themselves out of money.

Loss of Productivity and Income

Another issue that affects the finances of addicted individuals is the loss of productivity and income. 

Some people are able to remain ‘functional addicts.’ In this case, they are able to maintain a job while they support their addiction. However, this is not the case for everyone.

Many people begin to become less productive as they spiral deeper into addiction. They may begin to lack energy or they may find it in sporadic bursts. This can make them unreliable for their jobs and they may lose their employment.

Drug users and alcoholics are also more prone to missing work due to hangovers, withdrawals, or erratic behavior. 

Even self-employed individuals may struggle to maintain their income when they are using drugs or alcohol. Without strict discipline and control it can be very difficult for a self-employed person to manage an addiction alongside a regular routine. This can damage contracts and lead to the loss of income.

Health Care

Drug users and alcoholics may also need to spend additional money on health care services. 

Long-term users may develop some physical or mental health problems as a result of their addiction. This can necessitate therapy, visits to medical centers, and doctors, all of which can be costly. 

People may also run the risk of overdosing. If you end up in the hospital because of an overdose then you may have to pay a fee for the ambulance and the treatment that you receive.

Furthermore, as long-term users develop health problems later in life, they may lose their ability to work. This can create further financial strain that makes it difficult to keep their head above the water.


One of the biggest costs for a recovering drug user is the cost of rehab.

The cost of rehab will vary depending on what sort of services you require. You can also expect the price to change depending on the quality of rehab treatment that you are seeking.

For example, not everyone will require a medically supervised detox. These are generally for people who are addicted to physically addictive drugs that produce an intense withdrawal period. People addicted to alcohol and benzodiazepines should always seek a supervised detox along with a long weaning process, as these drugs can produce fatal seizures if they are not reduced gradually.

The price of detox alone is often more than $1,000. This may or may not be included in the price of your rehab treatment program. If it is, you may be able to save a bit of money when compared to seeking detox on its own.

The price of the rehab program that you’re going to be attending can also vary quite a bit. Low-end rehab programs are going to be a lot cheaper than high-end, luxury rehab programs. Rehab treatments also vary in length. Shorter programs can be a month or less, whereas longer inpatient programs can be several months in length.

Outpatient rehab programs are cheaper than inpatient rehabs. At an outpatient rehab you are just paying for the treatment services that you receive while you’re attending the facility. An inpatient program, on the other hand, requires that you pay for your room, board, and the availability of medical services that you will receive during the program.

The cost of rehab may be as little as a couple thousand dollars. However, if you require an extensive or long-term treatment program then you could easily see the price shift up into the tens of thousands.

It is possible to attend community or government/state-funded programs. However, these programs do not always offer the same standard of treatment that you can expect to receive if you are attending a more expensive program.

This is something to consider. If the treatment is not effective and you end up using again, then you will have to resume paying for the cost of your addiction again. In the long-run, it may be more worthwhile to choose a program that is slightly more expensive.

Legal Fees

Not everyone who battles an addiction will have to deal with legal fees, although this is not uncommon. 

Many drug users feel the need to engage in criminal activity to fund their addiction. If they are caught stealing then they may be arrested and charged. The cost of the legal fees related to this can be quite steep.

On top of that, the very act of possessing drugs is illegal in most places. This puts someone at risk of being fined and charged simply by having an addiction.

One must also consider that it’s illegal to be drunk in public. If an alcoholic is acting belligerent or obnoxious, or caught driving a car, then they may be charged with public intoxication or drunken driving. Again, the fees for these problems can be quite expensive and can seriously impact a person’s finances.

Affecting Spouse/Partner Finances 

Struggling drug users and alcoholics may also affect the finances of their spouse.

In the most serious cases, someone with an active addiction may steal or lie about the use of their partner’s finances. In addition to causing financial strain this can also cause problems with trust in the relationship.

Furthermore, most spouses are invested in helping their partners stay safe. For many, this can be a costly procedure. If your partner is spending all their money on drugs and alcohol, then suddenly the costs of food, shelter, insurance, and other daily expenses will fall on you.

This can put a serious strain on the finances and well-being of both partners. If the problem is not addressed properly then this can increase the risk of issues like homelessness and poverty.

Cost of Addiction on Society

Another thing to consider is the cost of addiction in society. There are a number of ways that society is affected by people who struggle with addiction. These can be expensive and these expenses will eventually fall to the taxpayer. 

  • People who struggle with addiction are more likely to commit crimes. This can lead to the loss of property and damages to businesses which may cost a lot of money.
  • The legal fees involved in managing criminals can be quite expensive. (Note the distinction between criminals and drug users – certainly not all drug users should be considered criminals, as it is the minority who commit dangerous or vandalistic acts to fuel their addictions).
  • Homelessness is a common problem among drug users. Society must redirect resources into homeless shelters and soup kitchens to ensure that these struggling individuals don’t simply die. 
  • A lot of money is spent in an attempt to identify and stop the operations of drug pushers and cartels.

These are just a few of the more obvious costs of addiction in society.


Addiction is a very costly lifestyle, not only for the addicted individual but also for those who love them and society at large.

Addiction can affect nearly every aspect of an individual’s finances. Not only do they have to pay for the addiction itself, but they may become unable to work because of it. This, in addition to legal and health fees that they may incur, can pave the way towards poverty and homelessness.

Society must also pay for the actions of drug users and alcoholics. These costs will eventually filter down to the taxpayers.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction, then perhaps this information can provide some incentive to seek help. Addiction is a very challenging process to overcome and it’s not always easy to do it on your own.

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