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Social Issues Overview

Although the costs of addiction or substance abuse are seen most clearly at the individual or familial level – substance abuse and addiction create significant challenges in our communities too. Everyone is affected by substance abuse, and the costs of addiction (health care costs, policing or incarceration costs, addiction treatment costs, decreased worker productivity, ineffective parenting etc.) are shared by all tax payers and citizens. Substance abuse is everyone’s problem and reducing the burden of addiction in our communities is in everyone’s best interest!

While there’s no doubt that substance abuse and addiction harms the individual and those closest to her most deeply, those that abuse drugs and alcohol also exist in larger society and so the costs of addiction and abuse extend also to larger society.

Substance abuse and addiction cost American tax payers roughly a half trillion dollars a year.

Addiction leads to poor health and corresponding health care costs – to desperation and the crime that accompanies an overwhelming need to use and to an enormous prison population, with most of those behind bars incarcerated for crimes committed while intoxicated or for drug possession or distribution.

Few families live untouched by addiction directly, but even those that never know the heartache of substance abuse close to home pay the price for addiction through its much larger social costs.

Addiction and substance abuse affect everyone.

Society and Addiction

Some of the many ways addiction affects society include:

  • Increased health care costs
  • Reduced productivity
  • Greater incidences of on-the-job accidents
  • Increased social welfare costs
  • Incarceration
  • Drug violence
  • Organized crime
  • Petty crime to fuel a drug habit
  • Impaired driving
  • Children born with physical or brain damage to mothers who used drugs or alcohol while pregnant
  • Increased transmission of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other infections diseases – transmission through the sharing of needles or pipes or through risky sexual activity
  • Overdose death
  • Ineffective or absent parenting
  • Family breakup
  • School drop out
  • Many more

A Few Statistics

While numbers can’t tell the human story of alcoholism and addiction, they do speak somewhat to its devastating social costs.

  • Underage drinking costs America more than 61 billion dollars per year. These costs include health care, legal and quality of life costs. 1
  • Since 1985, there has been an alarming increase in the number of incarcerated Americans. In federal prisons, 80% of this increase are those incarcerated for drug offences
  • Drug and alcohol abuse costs the American economy between 400 and 500 billion dollars per year
  • The health care costs for those that abuse alcohol are roughly twice the costs of non abusers
  • 1 in 4 deaths in American can be linked to alcohol, tobacco or drug use2
  • Of the almost half a trillion dollars federal state and municipal governments spend because of substance abuse, only about 2% of that money goes to treatment or prevention! 3

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