Drug Addiction and Poverty: Understanding the Connection

Drug Addiction and Poverty: Understanding the Connection

There is a long-standing belief that drug addiction and poverty go hand in hand. It is harder to believe that someone who doesn’t have a job or has little income can afford the expense of addiction. In some cases, addiction causes poverty, rather than the other way around. However, the connection between drug addiction and poverty is more complicated than that.

Those who live in poverty and are addicted to drugs have less access to rehabilitation centers and treatment for their condition, which creates serious problems for communities all over the United States.

Drug Addiction and Poverty: Understanding the Economic Conditions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2004 and 2013, most Americans made less than $49,999 per year. During that same period, there was a 50-percent increase in heroin use among males and a 100-percent increase among females. The growth in heroin use (109-percent) increased dramatically among those between the ages of 18 and 25-years old and heroin rehab centers are filling up across the country.

We cannot jump to the conclusion that those in poverty are addicted to drugs at a higher rate than those who are wealthier because of their economic situation. However, several studies have concluded people with lower income or those who live in environments that are not conducive to economic growth, are more at risk of falling victims to drug abuse.

Drug abuse is not as simple as that. Many factors go into the reasons why people start abusing drugs, including genetics, mental health, psychological factors, and childhood experiences.

What Causes Drug Addiction

Drug addiction generally starts in the pre-teen or teen years. This time in young people’s lives is when they often like to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and many get hooked. The problem is that the brain hasn’t fully developed, and kids are easily influenced during this time.

If the economy is not thriving and jobs are not available, it is more plausible someone who is bored, with nothing else to do to pass the time, would get addicted to drugs. It is not clear why one person can try a drug without getting addicted, while others fall for their effect immediately. Many experts believe it is due to genes that predispose someone to become addicted and it doesn’t matter whether they are wealthy or not.

Poverty and Drug Addiction Recovery

One of the most devastating problems when considering poverty and drug addiction is the lack of access to rehabilitation and recovery. If there are no financial resources, there is no access to a rehab center, which can put a person at risk of dying from an overdose or spiraling out of control and becoming lost in their addiction forever.  Federal and local governments are doing everything they can to reduce overdose deaths in the country. President Trump declared war on illegal drugs and opioid abuse, calling the current state of affairs an epidemic. But those who live in poverty have fewer chances of entering rehab than those who are better off financially merely because they cannot afford to pay for it.

On another note, those living in poverty and attempting to quit drugs are often times more exposed to the drug trade. People in poverty stricken areas find that the selling of drugs can offer them fast money. For someone who is not used to having a lot of money, the ideas of making a few hundred dollars in a day by selling drugs is very appealing. Imagine trying to stay sober when you know many people and locations to easily access your drug of choice. Trying to maintain sobriety in an area that is ripe with using and selling drugs is like telling someone addicted to gambling growing up across the street from a casino not to gamble.

Mental Health and Poverty

Another factor to consider is that many in poor communities do not have viable access to mental health programs. In fact many could be living with mental health problems and not even know how serious the problems are. A good example of this would be stress/anxiety. Financial stress is a very real thing and can lead people to drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. Another example would be PTSD in violent poor neighborhoods. Another common mental health problem in poverty stricken communities is depression, due to lack of money and other issues that come with living in poverty. Whatever the diagnosis may be, stress, PTSD, depression, it is a known fact that many of these people will use substances to cope with these problems. If there were better mental health institutions in poverty stricken neighborhoods, it could help reduce the amount of drug and alcohol abuse.

Education and Drug Addiction

In the past, many people assumed that those who were educated, with a college degree, and a successful career could not possibly get addicted to drugs. That is no longer the case because drugs affect people of all ages, economic, and education backgrounds. While there is no way of knowing for sure, there is more risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol for those without education.

The opioid epidemic has shown us that people from all walks of life and economic backgrounds can fall into drug addiction. The constant news about celebrities dying from accidental overdoses is all the example we need. While there is a higher risk of becoming addicted for the uneducated or those who drop out of school, parents need to keep a close eye on who their kids are hanging out with to protect them. In this environment, nobody is safe.

Many factors influence a person who decides to use drugs or alcohol in their lives. From education, to family history, and genes, some are more prone than others to becoming addicted. There is little doubt that drug addiction and poverty are related. Whether poverty comes before drug addiction or the other way around, there is evidence that for those without financial resources it is much harder to break the cycle of addiction, than it is for those who have the means to do so.

In addition, those in lower income levels have a harder time finding resources to help them recover and turn their lives around. If parents are drug addicts, chances are their children will suffer the same fate from watching them use drugs or from in-utero addiction. The lack of access to a rehab center where they can find recovery from drug addiction is one of the biggest problems our society faces in the battle against drugs.

Drug Addiction and Poverty: Finding Solutions

With any poverty issues, jobs would help ending the connection between drug addiction and poverty. People want meaning in life, having a reason to get up every day and earn your own money can make people feel valuable. Jobs can also help people get out of poverty stricken areas, where drug use is common. The jobs needs to be jobs that can provide people the opportunity of moving above the poverty line. People want meaning, courses that teach life skills and self-actualization along with hobbies can help people gain a purpose in their lives. Of course education is a great way to help get people out of poverty, this can only happen with strong families. If you look at poverty stricken areas, many come from single parent homes. Having strong family role models who encourage their kids to go to school can start building the next generation of getting people out of poverty. There is no quick fix, it starts with a generation that can lay the foundation for the next generation to follow.

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Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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