Battling the Societal and Financial Costs of Substance Abuse with Effective Treatment

Battling the Societal and Financial Costs of Substance Abuse with Effective Treatment

When someone you love is caught in the thrall of substance abuse, it can be terribly hard to watch. It can also feel personal, as though that person’s behaviors are targeted directly toward you.This is a hard feeling, and it may help to know that you are not alone. Although substance abuse does hit family and caregivers hardest, it also has serious societal and financial impacts. If you are researching substance abuse treatment for a child or other loved one, you have likely already experienced the emotional impacts of the disease, and may now be wondering about its other costs.

Financial Costs

Substance abuse by a child, spouse or other loved one doesn’t only affect the nuclear family. Instead, drug abuse has rippling effects that radiate outward from the original source, first touching the lives of family, then friends, then the local community, and finally the nation and world as a whole.

Does this sound overdramatic? Perhaps a little. But it may seem less so when you take into account the fact that as of 2008, according to the National Institutes of Health (2008), substance abuse and addiction cost the U.S. economy $559 billion a year. Of that, $181 billion per year was due to illicit drugs, while $185 billion stemmed from alcohol and the remaining costs were due to cigarettes (National Institutes of Health, 2008).

Community Costs

As of 2012, this number had risen to over $600 billion annually, according to the National Institutes of Health (2012). This is a serious financial cost that cannot be solved without attention to each individual with a problem. Luckily, drug abuse programs pay $4 to $7 to the community for every dollar that goes in, reducing crime, theft and criminal justice costs (National Institutes of Health, 2012).

Not only that, substance abuse costs the nation considerably in healthcare, because drug abuse substantially increases rates of diseases such as Hepatitis C and tuberculosis, and causes premature death, explains the U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center (2011).

Social Costs

Social activety is important but with substance use on the riseThe impact of substance abuse on American communities and the nation as a whole, however, goes beyond economic impacts. Many of the financial costs to society come via cost lost productivity in business, or out-of-work adults who cannot hold down jobs due to their addiction, and instead rely on their families’ resources as well as society’s. This destroys families, causes huge amounts of stress and compromises the lives of those it touches.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the addiction to opioids and other heroine-like drugs has also made dispensing prescription pain relievers for legitimate purposes more difficult (2014). Even people never touched by substance abuse may therefore be affected in their search for health.

Finding a Way Out

Helping your loved one to seek treatment is not a selfish or a pushy move. Though you may not be able to compel them to take a treatment program seriously (even if you do have the power to put them in it), your efforts in trying will not go unrewarded. Every time someone treats substance abuse with the respect it deserves, as a serious disease warranting specialized attention, the world becomes that much more attuned to the problem.

This helps others in need of advice when it comes to a loved one’s addiction issues, so keep seeking the information you need to make an informed decision.

  1. National Institutes of Health, Drug abuse costs the United States economy hundreds of billions of dollars in increased health care costs, crime, and lost productivity, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2008,
  2. National Institutes of Health, Is drug addiction treatment worth its cost?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2012,
  3. United States Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center, The economic impact of illicit drug use on American society, 2011,
  4. Nora D. Volkow, America’s addiction to opioids: Heroin and prescription drug abuse, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014,

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