There are many, many costs associated with addiction. These range from financial, to relational, to spiritual and to physical. For this blog the focus is only going to be on financial.
The statistics for calculating the cost of addiction are really difficult because there is a lot of fluctuation in the prices of illegal drugs. Even for legal drugs that are being abused, such as alcohol or prescription medication, the costs vary from state to state and by insurance plan. If we are talking about addiction to gambling, pornography or shopping, the same principles apply.
Let’s consider the various costs incurred:
1. The actual cost of the drug. With a very, very conservative estimate, 20 years of marijuana purchases cost about $20,000 and 20 years of heroin purchases cost about $200,000.
2. The cost of lost productivity. For example, someone with severe alcoholism is less likely to keep up with their house or car repairs. This results in further expenses later when major things start to break. Someone also might be less focused on their job, resulting in lower wages.
3. The cost of a drug or alcohol addicted lifestyle. Going out more often costs more money, as does the efforts made to obtain the drugs.
4. There are costs associated with increased sickness. People using drugs tend to get sick more often, with more severe illnesses. Imagine catching hepatitis C from sharing a needle with another heroin user. This is a lifelong, chronic illness. Drug users also catch the flu or cold more often. This results in more missed work and more visits to the doctor.
5. The cost of legal bills, and tickets. Most drug or alcohol addicts do end up with a DUI at some point. Depending on the drug used there is a good chance of arrest and the need for an attorney.
6. There is the cost of loss of earned income. People who use drugs and alcohol to excess often either take longer to finish school, or drop out. There is a substantial loss of income from not finishing school. They also miss more work, and are fired more frequently.
7. The cost of divorce. Divorce is one of the most expensive processes a person can go through. The incidence of divorce among addicts is about four times the normal rate according to some resources.
8. The costs of treatment. Nearly every addict will seek out treatment at some point. While Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous is free, therapy and rehab are not. That said, getting treatment and getting sober save much, much more money than they ever cost because addiction is so expensive and sobriety helps turn around a person’s financial situation.
All totaled, 20 years of continued addiction can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars when counting both money spent and lost opportunity to earn and save. It is extremely tragic. Addiction puts someone financially behind their peers sometimes by decades. In cases of gambling, pornography or shopping the cost can be comparable or even higher.
For several months I worked with a methamphetamine addict who was trying to maintain sobriety. He told me at the end of treatment that one of the most powerful sessions of therapy for him was when we calculated the cost of his addiction. We did not even factor in lost productivity or the cost of treatment. We figured out that over 10 years he had spent about $35,000 on crystal meth. He then realized if he had applied that to his mortgage, he would’ve saved another several thousand in interest payments. We talked about lost pay from jobs where he was fired, and the increased cost of car insurance after two accidents he caused while high. All said and done, the estimate came out to about $65,000. He was devastated when he heard that because his family was living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes could barely keep the lights on.
This is just another angle of how addiction costs. People spend a lot of time focused on the emotional and physiological impact, but it affects so much more.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, count the cost. Maybe, just maybe, that will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and it will finally be time to get sober.
Helping Teens Grow and Families Improve Connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT