Poverty and Addiction: How Each One Affects the Other

Does poverty affect addiction?

In the movies, we often see and hear of people living in extremely poor conditions – and most portrayals depict individuals having become addicted to a substance and later losing everything they own because of it. The National Council on Drug Abuse states that in many other instances, however, it’s the other way around – and when poverty strikes, it becomes even harder to not abuse substances because people may be trying to find a “way out” – even if it’s not the healthiest way.

By gaining a better understanding of the different instances that arise throughout the country, we can hopefully open up a clearer mind – and eye – to the troubling event of addiction.

The Prevalence of Poverty in Communities

Poverty USA, an organization dedicated to helping educate people about poverty as well as more spiritual aspects of life, states that approximately 15.3 million children across the U.S. are currently living in poverty; and a few years ago, a study showed that 43.1 million Americans were living in poverty. These numbers indicate not only that we have a huge poverty concern nationwide, but also that there is an increased risk of substance abuse amongst these communities – and in many cases, it’s because of stress, mental illness and more. Some homes experience physical and/or emotional abuse, and those in the household may feel that they can’t escape – so they turn to alcohol or other substances to try and ease the pain.

The Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis, emphasized that there are also periods of transition in poverty, such as when a person undergoes a major life event such as:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Sudden changes in income
  • And more

For these individuals, a sudden concern becomes money and providing for one’s family – which can perpetuate the desire to use substances in attempts to numb some of the overwhelming feelings of frustration and exhaustion often experienced in these circumstances. In a similar manner, those in impoverished communities may have difficulty accessing treatment due to a lack of resources or knowledge that these resources exist.

Prevalence of Addiction in Communities

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that more than $740 billion dollars are spent annually on substance abuse costs related to crime, healthcare and lost work productivity. The opioid epidemic has shown a major light on the severity of addiction in the United States, and the Surgeon General reported a few years ago that 1 in 7 people in the U.S. will battle addiction. The outlook on those with addiction may be different as it relates to poverty, however, as a person who is rich or poor may experience substance abuse issues. In addition to this, Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, stated:

“We have to recognize (addiction) isn’t evidence of a character flaw or a moral failing. It’s a chronic disease of the brain that deserves the same compassion that any other chronic illness does, like diabetes or heart disease.”

On the outside looking in, it may seem like only those who are poor encounter substance abuse; Live Science, a website that publishes information related to news, technology, health, environment and more, explains that recent research has identified those who are age 26 and upper-middle-class experience an increased risk of battling substance abuse and/or addiction by two to three times. In fact, other studies have shown that higher-income households may increase a young adult’s chances of abusing marijuana and alcohol.

Adults earning high figures may battle substance abuse as the pressure for demand increases – greater responsibility in higher-level positions can cause some to revert to using certain substances to relax or to stay energized throughout the day.

The Truth? Each Case Is Different

The reality is that addiction doesn’t cause poverty just as poverty doesn’t cause addiction. However, each one can increase a person’s risk for battling with the other, depending on that person’s individual circumstances and other risk factors. It becomes increasingly difficult to seek help when you find yourself stuck in a negative cycle that’s hard to break, and that is where professional treatment should come in.

As one person stated:

“When you can stop, you don’t want to. When you want to stop, you can’t. That’s addiction.”

Addiction affects so many people across the globe in different ways, but the first path towards healing is to seek out a team of people who believe in your journey. If you’re ready to develop meaningful connections through 12-Step programs, enhance your spiritual journey and finding greater purpose in life, become engulfed in the recovery world in some truly meaningful ways and more, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.