Drug addiction and alcoholism are addictions that most people are familiar with, but there are many addictions families suffer from. The fact is that any addiction from drugs and cigarettes to shopping and gambling can have disastrous social and financial consequences. When the addict has a family, the cost of the addiction can wreck the home and have long-lasting effects on every person he or she touches.
Addictions are largely defined by their fruitless struggle to overcome diminishing returns. A diminishing return is when a large quantity of something is not proportionately satisfying as a small quantity. For example, eating a single piece of cake is satisfying; eating ten slices of cake is not ten times as satisfying. Each subsequent slice will be less satisfying than the last.
When a person is addicted, they often recognize that their addiction is unsatisfying, but continue consuming in hopes that they can obtain the pleasure or satisfaction that they associate with the activity. The addictive substance may be accompanied by withdrawal symptoms that create demand for the activity even when its inherently unpleasant; this chains addicts to their behavior and makes it difficult to stop even when they no longer enjoy it.
Addictions and Poverty
Theres a reason why addictions are often associated with poverty. Many addictive behaviors begin as a method of escapism and pleasure seeking, and people who suffer financially are often drawn to them as a means to avoid serious problems. Addictions provide instant gratification, which is something sorely lacking in most low-income households that struggle to survive from one paycheck to the next.
The relationship between addiction and poverty travels both ways, however, and addictions can often lead to financial ruin or make maintaining healthy finances impossible. Simply put, addictions are expensive to maintain, and their cost increases the longer a person has them. Addictions never level out; as it becomes harder for a person to reach the same level of satisfaction, they will need to engage in addictive behaviors more and more often, resulting in higher expenses.
Of course, secondary factors come into play as well. Serious addictions interrupt every facet of a persons life. It can lead to marital troubles and divorce, loss of jobs and criminal charges if the addictive substance is illegal. Drug and Alcohol detox services are expensive, and people often find themselves ill equipped to deal with life after quitting, which leads them back to their addictive behaviors. As the addict becomes embroiled in deeper poverty and despair, they often turn to the addiction for comfort, causing a vicious self-fulfilling cycle.
The Cost of Addiction
Addiction costs are insidious, often creeping into a persons finances without notice. People who may have a difficult time paying off debt or making regular rent payments somehow always find money to pay for addictions; this is usually because they are willing to make sacrifices to feed the addiction. This makes people less likely to realize how damaging the financial impact of an addiction is until its too late.
Because addictions are cumulative, they will cost more to maintain the longer a person has them. For example, consider smoking. A single pack of cigarettes costs around $6, although it may be more or less expensive in some areas depending on state taxes. A person with a light nicotine addiction may smoke a pack a week. As their tolerance rises, this may double, and then triple, until they become pack-a-day smokers.
At that rate, an addiction that once cost less than $25 a month to maintain can easily become a $180 per month addiction, and its not uncommon for many chain smokers to go through more than one pack a day. A pack-a-day smoking habit translates to around $2,160, or about 10% of a persons income at the poverty level. Considering nearly 30% of smokers are below the poverty level, this has a huge impact on peoples lives.
Other addictions are much more expensive, and people are often addicted to multiple things. Estimates suggest that hardcore drug addictions can cost easily half of a persons income at poverty level, and the true cost might be even higher.