The Expensive Substance Abuse Problem

drugs moneyDrug abuse affects individual lives in obvious ways. It’s easy to see when someone’s father has deserted the family due to his addiction, or when someone overdoses and has to go to the emergency room. The self-destruction of the alcoholic and the danger to society of the meth addict “cooking” in his basement are both well-known.

What we don’t always think about is how these addicts cumulatively affect the country as a whole. Addiction is an expensive problem for our entire society for several reasons.

Productivity losses

One of the first ways that drugs affect our economy and our culture is by lowering the productivity of our workforce. There are many ways that workers can be unproductive, and every one of them raises the costs for companies without actually adding to the amount of products being created by companies, communities and the country as a whole.

For example, the amount of time that office workers spend checking their personal email and going to sports websites already costs the economy billions of dollars in lost production. Can you imagine the effects of the many drugs that Americans use? Every time someone gets high before work, he will be that much slower and that much more “out of it” when he is supposed to be getting work done. It may not always be apparent, but he’s not getting a lot done while still being paid the same amount.

This lost productivity is eventually passed on to customers in the form of raised prices. After all, companies have to make their profits somehow when they’re paying drug-using employees the same amount for less work.

The cost of crime

Another way drugs cost our country is through crime. A large percentage of the crimes committed in America are for drugs. Drug addicts commit the majority of home break-ins because they’re searching for cash and valuables that can be converted into drug money. Many violent crimes are committed due to intoxication, as well.

In addition to the human suffering that these crimes cause, they are also incredibly expensive and damaging to the country as a whole. The United States spends billions of dollars to keep criminals locked up after they have committed drug-related crimes. States and communities also have to spend a large portion of their budgets on law enforcement. If we didn’t have so much drug-caused crime, governments could spend that law enforcement money in more productive ways (like schools.) More funds for education could then possibly help prevent people from using drugs in the first place.

Healthcare expenses

It’s no secret that drugs can damage your health. Smoking tobacco or marijuana can lead to lung cancer, while meth use can destroy your teeth, gums and skin. Cocaine and other stimulants can weaken your heart severely over time. All this builds up to drug addicts needing a lot more health care than the general population.

Since many addicts don’t have full time jobs, they aren’t provided company health insurance and can’t afford to get good insurance on their own. They end up having to sign up for publically-funded healthcare that taxpayers foot the bill for. While most of us would never want to deny healthcare to someone that desperately needed it, much of this healthcare wouldn’t need to be provided in the first place if addicts weren’t using drugs.

The math is simple. If our society spends more time, energy and money on eradicating the drug epidemic in this country, we will more than get our investment back in lives saved and the improvement to our economy. It’s a monumental task, but it’s one that we should all participate in.

Reference:

DrugAbuse.gov: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/addiction-science-molecules-to-managed-care/introduction/drug-abuse-costs-united-states-economy-hundreds-billions-dollars-in-increased-health

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