The Economic Toll of Drug Addiction

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There are many ill effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Addiction in and of itself is a negative effect for all who are harmed by it. In addition to those addicted, there are many others who experience similar difficulties, losses, hardships, all at the hands of substance abuse.

Substance abuse hurts addicts, their families, their communities, and taxpayers. It hurts a state’s commerce, safety, and overall efficiency to operate. Trying to operate a community that is awash with addiction is akin to trudging through deep snow or mud. The economic toll alone of drug and alcohol addiction is such that not only is each state affected in its own way, but our entire country as a whole is also affected by it.

Harsh Statistics on Costly Addiction in the Workforce

When people think of addiction, they usually think of this problem as being a person-to-person problem. They usually think of the health impact, the impact on the family, and the loss of life that addiction entails. People rarely look at the broader prospect of substance abuse and the very real risk that substance abuse entails. However, there are many statistics on the economic impact of addiction, and people need to know this.

  • According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, it is estimated that the annual impact of substance abuse on our economy is about two-hundred and forty-nine-billion dollars for alcohol abuse and one-hundred and ninety-three-billion dollars for drug abuse. These funds come from taxpayer money to address crime, utilize prevention, increase law enforcement, maintain government-funded rehabilitation, and address medical emergencies affiliated with substance abuse.
  • Between drug abuse and alcohol abuse, Americans end up spending exorbitant amounts of money addressing the health implications of addiction. 2006 saw two-hundred and sixteen-billion dollars spent on helping addicts who suffered from health issues. It is unlikely that this money comes out of each addict’s pocketbook. It is far more likely instead that other citizens end up picking up the bill.
  • Substance abuse hurts the economy further by directly harming the workforce. Individuals who abuse alcohol use four times as many sick days and hospital visits as non-drinking workers do. Furthermore, an estimated five-hundred million workdays are lost every year due to addiction problems.
  • In the HR department, sixty-seven percent of HR professionals believe that addiction and substance abuse are two of the most serious problems that face their respective companies. Such professionals list addiction or casual substance abuse as causing sixty-two percent of absenteeism, forty-nine percent of decreased productivity, thirty-one percent of missed deadlines, and twenty-nine percent of increased healthcare costs.

Substance abuse is a huge problem for our economy from a governmental standpoint too, not just for businesses. According to the study, “The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets,” state governments spend about sixteen percent of their budgets on addressing addiction in their respective states. Local governments (city, county, township, village, etc.) spent a combined ninety-three-billion dollars on substance abuse and addiction, which is far more than they spent on transportation and public welfare.

Cure Addiction, Cure the Economy

Our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars addressing addiction every year, yet the problem only seems to get worse and cost more each year! Ultimately, this has developed into a significant problem requiring delicate yet extremely persistent attention. Now, the focus must be that of sweeping rehabilitation for all who are addicted to substances.

In addition to extensive rehabilitation of current addicts, the U.S. needs to also focus on prevention and education. Prevention and education are the best tools our country has for stopping people from becoming addicted in the first place.

It is much easier to stop addiction from ever starting in a person than it is to rehabilitate a person once they get addicted. Young people in particular need to be better educated about the risks of substance abuse by their parents and their schools, public officials, and opinion leaders. As both federal and state governments move forward into a new year, it’s time to start thinking more proactively about where our country is headed with addiction and how we can better prevent addiction from ever occurring in our communities.

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