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What You Should Know About the Cost of Drug Addiction to Society


When thinking about the cost of using drugs, most of us usually consider how much addicts spent on it. Not many of us look for the numbers that show how much we, as a society, spent on legal and other services associated with drug use.

As it is impossible to put the price tag on feelings and struggles or measure them in any way, we can focus only on what statistics and numbers can offer. Even if no incarceration or crime was involved and the addict realizes that reaching free rehab centers (AddictionResource provides information) is the best solution to stop the use, the community still has to pay for it in some way.


The War on Drugs Cost

America’s battle with drug abuse is over a hundred years long. The first federal policy on drugs, The Harrison Narcotics Act, was enacted in 1

914, restricting the manufacturing and selling of cocaine, morphine, heroin, and marijuana. In the year 1971, President Nixon initiated aid funding for treatments and programs such as methadone maintenance. Six years later, President Carter ordered marijuana decriminalization but without the support for legalization.


Judging by the number of people in jails and clinics, a century-long war fought with various policies, as a weapon, hasn’t moved society any closer to “peace”. According to a report made by the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), the annual cost for crimes related to illegal drug distribution, possession, and use is more than 60 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money. From this amount, more than 55 billion dollars are spent on the criminal justice system. Combined with the costs of health care, lost work productivity and licit drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse, the overall amount can reach over 740 billion dollars per year.


In 2018, the number of people in the U.S. arrested for drug law violations was 1,654,282, and for marijuana law violation 663,367. Mathematically speaking, during one year every 20 seconds one person gets arrested for a drug-related crime. Yearly cost for one imprisoned person is around $30,000, and the number of people charged with drug trafficking and possession is over 200,000 annually.


Drug Control Effort and Drug-Related Health Care Programs

Since 2017, the amount earmarked for drug control efforts in the U.S. reached over $30 billion in that year only and then doubled within the next three years. From 2008 on, American society spent about $210 billion on National Drug Control Strategy efforts, including law enforcement, drug trafficking resources, treatments, and prevention.


Based on the NDIC’s report, drug-related health care costs U.S. citizens more than $11 billion each year. This amount includes direct and indirect expenses for various medical interventions, emergency services, inpatient drug treatments, as well as some free substance abuse programs. Visits to emergency facilities and hospitalization cost around 200 million dollars per year, only.


Treatments and prevention have been shown as extremely useful and cost-effective to reduce health and social expenses. Furthermore, some newer free drug treatment programs, such as ambulatory detoxification, are less costly and give better results with its outpatient orientation. Treatment funding is important and proven to be economically significant as with every dollar invested in it, around 4-7 dollars will return in reduced crime and criminal justice costs.

Substance abuse, as well as addiction, can be prevented with screening and enhanced work on early intervention with young generations, children, teens, and adolescents. So far, the best results were achieved with interactive sessions and awakening messages about the danger of substance use. Apart from direct professional work with young people, addiction prevention strategies include parents, teachers, doctors, media and other members of the community as well.

Another focus of prevention is an extremely large number of licit drug abuse cases. Funding education on the addictive nature of some prescription medications is a relatively new strategy that is yet expected to give more significant results.


Loss of Productivity

Implications of drug use are equally disastrous for employers and employees.

Estimated total costs of lost productivity, from prescription drug misuse only, are between $25 and $53 billion and from alcohol abuse approximately $75 billion. People with drug use disorders miss 18.5 days of work each year, for a sick day, unplanned personal day or unexplained absence. The cost of this number of absenteeism is $660 per employee annually. Employers can also face additional health care costs such as disability payments and contributions to health insurance plans.


Many addicts end up getting workplace injuries and eventually losing their jobs, as a result of drug abuse. With unemployment and drug use expenses, life can become exceptionally complicated. The loss of social security and retirement benefits, combined with other possible financial issues will make the everyday living of addict unbearable and a good reason to keep using the substances.


Drug Use Disorders are Treatable

Addiction is a chronic disease with harmful consequences to brain function and behavior. It’s a treatable condition, but it’s a long-term and complex process. The recovery can begin with the voluntary call to any addiction helpline, to gather information on how to get rehab for free.

Every case of drug use disorder is different so treatments have to be carefully composed to address the patient’s needs. Professional help and counseling are necessary, especially if the medications are used as a form of treatment. Recovery plans often have to be reviewed and possibly modified to fit the person’s changing condition. On their way to sobriety, people with addiction problems can experience relapse episodes, which is the time when they need support and guidance more than ever.

In order to find low income, affordable help or free drug rehabilitation centers, people with drug use addiction can start their search with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), for nearby local resources and facilities.