The Cost of Addiction: The Real Price You Pay for Drugs and Alcohol
A long-term addiction to drugs and alcohol will not only take a toll on your health and well-being, it will also cripple your personal finances. In order to explore the actual financial impact of an addiction, we calculated the estimated costs of addiction to some of the most commonly abused substances over a variety of timeframes.
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The data is clear: addiction can be extremely fiscally taxing over just a 5-year timeframe, and especially so over a lifetime. Heroin, oxycodone, and cocaine rank as the top three most expensive substances, with each addiction costing over a million dollars to support for a 50 year time period. According to the U.S. Census, the median annual income for employed men and women was approximately $47,000 in 2017. This would equate to an estimated $1.4 million total over a 30-year career, not accounting for inflation. Therefore, a serious drug or alcohol addiction could potentially cost an individual an entire lifetime of earnings, assuming that their addiction would allow them to maintain a normal job.
For each of the substances included in our study, we looked at the number of down payments that could have been put down on a median priced home [zillow.com], the number of average priced cars [kbb.com] that could have been purchased, and the number of bachelor’s degrees at an in-state public college [collegedata.com] that could have been covered.
The analysis below provides valuable insights into the harsh realities of the price addicts pay for their addictions.
Even the least expensive addiction to support, a nicotine addiction, can add up over time to more than half of the cost of all three major life purchases listed in the charts over the course of 25 years.
Beer consumption is the next most costly addiction. Just 5 years of an alcohol addiction can cost nearly a third of a down payment on a home, the purchase of a car, and the cost of tuition for a 4-year bachelor’s degree.
Marijuana usage is the third least-expensive substance of those reviewed in our study. However, it would only take 5 years of supporting a marijuana addiction to cost a person nearly an entire home down payment, the full purchase of an average car, and the price of attaining a bachelor’s degree.
Cocaine, as a highly illicit drug, is inherently more costly per estimated dose and thus is increasingly taxing over an extended duration. Considering that it takes approximately 4-6 years to complete a bachelor’s degree, it is saddening to realize that a person living with a cocaine addiction forfeits the equivalent investment of nearly 3 full bachelor degrees over the same 5-year period of time during which he or she could have obtained a degree.
A person struggling with alcoholism, in the case of habitual liquor consumption, would have to face severe financial consequences as time went on. After 25 years supporting an alcohol addiction, a compulsive consumer of liquor could have put down a down payment on 3 homes, purchased almost 4 cars, and funded more than 3 bachelor’s degrees with the money spent on liquor.
According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 0.8 million Americans admitted to being current users of methamphetamines The same source reported that 16,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 were current methamphetamine users. This is particularly heartbreaking, given the opportunities a young adult gives up to addiction.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), opioid abuse in the United States has reached epidemic levels. The HHS declared opioid abuse a public health emergency in 2017, with 11.4 million Americans misusing prescription opioids. This results in the deaths of 130 or more individuals from an overdose every day. Of those who admitted to misuse, at least 2.1 million struggled with a disorder or addiction. Given such staggering numbers, addictions to opioids like oxycodone and Vicodin surely take their monetary toll on the American population. Oxycodone is very expensive, second only to heroin in terms of the estimated cost per day.
Heroin is the most expensive addiction, costing an estimated $175 per day, or $63,875 annually. As illustrated below, a person living in active heroin addiction would give up significant sums of money which could have instead been spent on necessities and improving their lifestyles. After just 5 years of a heroin addiction, the money spent on purchasing the drugs could have been used to put the down payment on 7 homes, purchase 8 cars, or cover the cost of almost 8 bachelor’s degrees.
It’s important to note that these fiscal costs are only one of the costs addicts pay for their addictions. They, and their families, also suffer mental, physical, and emotional costs. A severe addiction could prohibit an individual from functioning and performing at a satisfactory level to both obtain and maintain steady employment. The insights gained from our look at the costs of each of these substances leads us to ask: is an addiction worth risking homelessness, lack of reliable transportation, the opportunity for a better life afforded by higher education, and saving for the future? Imagine the life you could build for yourself or a loved one by living in recovery.
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