When thinking about the financial burdens of drug addiction, the obvious costs are the drugs themselves. Whether they are legal prescription drugs, sold at a local pharmacy, or illicit substances bought and sold on the street, substance abuse is an expensive habit. Even regular smokers can spend thousands of dollars per year on cigarettes; heavy drinkers may spend hundreds to thousands of dollars every year on alcohol. But there are so many more costs associated with being a drug addict.
This is the obvious financial cost. Again, depending on the substance, this cost can range. Since many drugs are illegal, it is hard for experts to estimate exactly how much an addict might spend annually on supplying their habit, but the important thing to remember is that addicts build tolerance, and the longer a person is a drug addict, the more and the harder the drugs they need. This only escalates until they either die from side effects or can finally get clean.
Many people will spend all of their income on drugs, especially when their income isn’t very much to begin with. This leads to spending all of their savings, and even going into debt. They may max out their line of credit, or even default on payments to creditors. The drug supply becomes the priority, and other payments are no longer important to them. They may borrow or even steal money from family members, always promising but never able to pay it back.
Some addicts find themselves in situations where their family members support their habits because they’re afraid to lose them, or they’re afraid of what consequences might arise if they go looking for money elsewhere. Since many addicts turn to crime, such as theft, robbery, and burglary to get their supply, some family members try to prevent that by giving them the money they need to survive. This enabling of their drug habit is dangerous because the need is insatiable. Countless parents and grandparents have gone bankrupt trying to help their loved ones by paying for their habits. The financial burden then becomes their own.
When a person is debilitated by their drug addiction, they are no longer able to work. One of the side effects of drug abuse is apathy and loss of interest in daily activities such as work. With altered sleep patterns, erratic mood swings, bad hygiene and misplaced priorities, keeping a job is not a viable possibility for many people who are caught up in drug addiction. Once they quit or are fired from their jobs, they no longer have the financial means of supporting themselves. This is when many people turn to their loved ones for help, or end up on the streets and resort to crime for their livelihoods.
Life as an addict can involve crime and arrests. The legal costs associated with criminal behaviour can take a toll on the family. Likewise, medical bills can add up for people who are in and out of the hospital with health concerns derived from their substance abuse problems, even in Canada where most of our health care is covered. Without the health insurance provided by steady employment, the medical bills accrued by unhealthy persons have to be paid for by their family members. This can also include funeral costs for people who have overdosed or succumbed to drug-related diseases such as kidney failure, liver failure, cardiac arrest, stroke, and HIV.
Rehabilitation is the only positive end result of drug addiction. It is the only way for the story to have a happy ending. It’s not cheap though: rehab comes at financial costs and emotional costs for the addict and their loved ones. Instead of focusing on the price of rehab, though, the addict and their family should focus on the journey to a health life that begins with getting clean.