“If I had all the money I’d spent on drink, I’d spend it on drink.”
– the character of Sir Henry in the 1980 British comedy film “Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.”
Even as a recovering addict, I can’t deny the above quote always makes me smile. Its humorous effect is based on its undeniable truth, of that, I’m sure. Yes, ask any active addict if they would like to see the same amount of money again that their addiction had already cost them, you’d be hard pushed to find a “No.” Of that, I’m equally sure.
However, as a recovering addict of 8 years, my response would be slightly different, something along the lines of, “Yep, sure, go ahead, send that money right over. But I’ll spend it on something else, thank you very much. Probably repaying all the people I still owe money to…” And that, too, is an undeniable truth.
Addiction costs, and it costs in many ways. There is the physical and mental health price to pay for those who are addicted, as well as the emotional cost to them. Their loved ones, their close friends, parents, their children, brothers, sisters, their extended family – all of these people will pay an emotional cost, too.
In financial terms, hundreds of billions of dollars can be lost to a country’s economy because of the addicts who live there. And, you can be sure, the pockets of the addict are no longer lined with hundred dollar bills, just the occasional rattle of nickels and dimes.
Personally, my finances are looking somewhat better than they did during my active years of addiction (mainly due to the fact I can actually hold down a reasonable job now). In fact, I’m regularly putting money away for a future I didn’t expect to have. Yes, addiction certainly costs, believe me, and, even in recovery, those demands for payment do still keep coming, on every level.
This article will concentrate upon the financial cost to the addict themselves: the 3 ways addiction will (and it surely will) affect your finances. It doesn’t matter how your addiction started, as challenging or as emotional that may have been for you. You are guaranteed to feel its effect in your wallet or your purse. This may seem the least of your troubles at the time (after all, it really is only money); however, at some point further down the line, you will have to pay, as surely as you will pay the heavy price of the self-inflicted damage you have done to all aspects of your health.
The Cost of “Your Drug of Choice”
At the beginning of your addiction (if you can actually work out when that was – most addicts can’t pinpoint a specific date, so to speak, just a certain period of their lives when things got harder and harder for them), the cost of the substance you would go on to abuse was inconsequential. In other words, it didn’t matter. You were, initially, having a better time with it than without it. Yes, the cost didn’t matter one iota.
Once your addiction has truly taken over, the only financial concern you will have is how to pay for your next “fix” of your drug of choice. This, as is all too often the case, can present serious problems. If you are a high-functioning alcoholic or drug abuser, you may well still be in employment. In other words, you got the green. However, for the vast majority of addicts, this won’t be the case. In fact, financial difficulties are a clear warning sign of addiction.
Lost jobs, a partner who walked out of the door long ago, a family that won’t talk to you (let alone, submit to your endless pleas for cash – “I’ll pay you right back.” Yes, of course, you will…) may, in turn, lead you to get money by illegal means. Yet another potential cost – the court.
Throw in the fact that you will rapidly be gaining, or have gained, a tolerance to your drug of choice, and, therefore, need greater and greater amounts to achieve the previous effect, and it all starts to build into something as uncontrollable as the addiction itself.
In the U.S., the cost of substance abuse is around $600 billion every year, so it is unsurprising that the elements of society that bear that cost are constantly looking to reduce it. Addiction treatment does cost money, plain and simple; however, the money it saves in the long-term is much greater. Additionally, the cost of treatment over incarceration is much less. Looking at heroin users as a typical example, it would cost around $24,000 a year to simply lock them up in a prison somewhere, as opposed to the $4,700 for methadone maintenance treatment. It would make us one sad society, too, if incarceration was viewed as the natural solution to the problem.
In essence, every dollar spent on addiction treatments saves around $12 in reduced healthcare costs, drug-related crime costs, and court costs, when lumped together.
However, for you, as the addict in question, none of that matters right now. So, what are the costs to you? This is dependent on the following factors initially:
- In-patient or out-patient program
- of patients in the program
- Program length
- Treatment options, eg, detox
- Amenities included
The standard in-patient addiction treatment program (30 days) will cost between $14,000 and $27,000, depending upon the factors listed above. Detox, if not included in the treatment costs, will be between $600 and $1,000 per day. So who exactly pays for all this?
Again, we are back to a non-definitive answer – it is ultimately dependent upon your health insurance cover. In other words, what they’ll pay for and what they won’t. Whatever the ultimate answer to this may be, it is important to remember that quality addiction treatment programs are available to any addict, whatever their financial or healthcare status.
Financial Costs Incurred by Others
Yes, we’re back to the begging from family and friends scenario mentioned earlier. Because these people are your loved ones, many will simply prefer not to see you suffering the effects of withdrawal without much needed medical supervision, and put their hand in their own pocket when asked. As hard as it may be for them, the only result is that they are actually facilitating the addiction, prolonging its devastating effects on you and themselves. It, unfortunately, really is as simple as that.
Nickels & Dimes…
During my years of addiction, I stole from my wife (now, ex-wife), my mother, my brother, my uncles (when I got the chance), and several neighbors. I took out a number of personal loans after supplying the bank with false information about my employment and financial status. I stole numerous bottles from liquor stores. I even stole from a drug dealer once, and spent the next few months constantly looking over my shoulder. I never thought I’d do such things, but I did.
The financial costs of addiction are just part of the overall price that you pay. These 3 ways addiction will affect your finances – the actual substance costs, treatment costs, and those costs incurred by others – will mount up until they are as insurmountable as your addiction appears to be. Throw in the cost to your health, and the emotional cost to yourself and those around you, and it’s no wonder you can’t simply do this on your own. You need help to deal with this thing that is slowly strangling you.
Do you have any experiences that you’d like to share with other readers about the financial costs you have seen from addiction? All comments left below are gratefully received.
I’m 8 years into my addiction recovery. I’ve pretty much paid back every cent I borrowed or stole or simply manipulated from another’s pocket to my own. Yes, it is only money, but it’s how the world works. What really is of more concern to me, and is something I focus on every day, is this: repaying the emotional cost that others have had to bear for my addiction. It’s going to take a long time, I’m sure, but it’s all I can do.
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