Exploring the cost of drug addiction

Different aspects of addiction withdrawal symptoms

Understanding the cost of drug addiction

It may be surprising to many that their purchase of drugs funds other illicit and illegal empires. The cocaine you buy is almost certainly funding human trafficking. Out of sight is not entirely out of mind. The consequences of supporting drug distribution are very real for many people. Movie stars in Hollywood claim to spend hundreds of thousands on cocaine for example before they get clean. We explore what the cost of drug addiction really entails here, and look at a few common data sets that describe what the cost of drug addiction really becomes to people, friends and families of the addicted person.

Addiction is far from lacking in negative consequences, any which way you way to look at it. Along the line…of actually snorting a line, you will probably find that people have been killed, maimed, tortured, been mutilated, have disappeared, been arrested and lost their freedom.

Then there is the physical and psychological attack on your body, brain, limbic and nervous system. Many believe that today’s drugs are so mixed with chemicals like rat poison and other substances that the “drugs” are making people more and more psychotic than ever. It is as if they cross the line of sobriety into a high of illusion too many times for the brain to stand. Many families are providing brand new data of how their loved ones seem mentally affected in the short and medium term, perhaps more now than ever. The anger, violence, impulse control issues and sheer unmanageability of people according to some helping professionals may in fact be getting more extreme than in previous decades. Nevertheless, whether a doctor or lawyer or street junkie who uses daily, on weekends or several times a month, there is no getting away from personal accountability. There are often long term effects of drug use on the brain and body, many still in the stages or early research. People believe they will ‘get away with it. They believe there is only a monetary side to the cost of drug addiction. They believe others will become addicted, but not them…compounding and making addiction issues even worse.

Many individuals and families know from first-hand experience how hurtful addiction can be. Not only to the drug users, but also to individuals around them. The cost of drug addiction and the consequences of drug use include damaging families, relationships, or communities, and perhaps increasing the risks for serious illness or crime. Often, the drug user has vowed to stop and has tried to stop many times only to fall back and relapse into further drug use or dependence. The resulting feelings of helplessness, impotence, and failure can engulf and doom someone’s entire world.
The personal and societal side of the cost of drug addiction can be seen around us and in the media. Robert Downey Jr., a well-known actor, producer, and singer, had a serious problem with drugs. He described to a judge how he couldn’t stop using them even though he knew he was in trouble. He also said that while starring on the television series Ally McBeal, he was at a low point and didn’t care if his acting career was over. But after five years of drug abuse, arrests, stints in rehab, and many relapses, he settled down to work on his problem. Ray Charles, the legendary performer, was addicted to heroin, but after his third drug bust, he went into rehab and gave up the drug. Fortunately, there are individuals who generously come forward, tell us their stories, and warn us about drugs. But not all drug users accept treatment or stop taking drugs, and that group generates great concern. There is even greater concern when our peers or the media glamorize drug use, which is quite dangerous.

Drug abuse is expensive. The cost of drug addiction is sometimes incalculable. When we include additional health care costs, productivity losses, costs of crime, and so on, the dollar amount is great.5 In 2002, for example, overall costs exceeded 180 billion dollars, and loss of productivity accounted for a large portion of that. Costs increased more than 5 percent annually since 1992, with the most rapid increase in costs related to the criminal justice system. These dollar figures are comparable to those for heart disease, cancer, and mental illness. They reflect a major, major, major drain on society’s resources. Of course, dollar amounts do not begin to reflect the misery that drug use can create for the individual, his or her friends, and family. This is a war on drugs! Nothing less.

While the problems and the cost of drug addiction are great, they are not hopeless. Perhaps determination is wanting. Dr. Bertha Madras, a Harvard researcher in drug addiction and a former White House official, says, “When viewed from a national perspective, the drug abuse problem in this country is staggering. Yet I am certain that we can develop effective solutions and strategies if we overcome our biggest challenge—finding resolve.”  

At the end of the day, Mark L Lockwood (BA)(Hons) an addiction psychology expert says, it never starts or ends being about the drugs. The usual first addiction is co-dependency learned in childhood. By the time someone thinks and looks or behaves like an addict you can be sure that removing the substance, doing away with their drug of choice is not going to matter much. Although abstinence of the substance is a good start, people who have been using substances excessively over a period of time have inevitably developed the personality to go with it. Avoidance, blame, shame covered up as anger, selfishness and grandiosity often set in as defence mechanisms. So when we treat the individual, we need to treat these characteristics and traits as well. It takes 21 days to break a habit, as the modern psychology data tells us. However addiction goes well beyond habit. It is said that 21 days are sufficient as a detox period for most drugs. Not a recovery period, a detox period. We need to remember that early recovery only starts from three to twelve months. Recovery is a process. We cannot cure addiction, which is now classified as a brain disease since 2013 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Treatment. What we need to do is treat it, and then move into maintenance in the medium to long term. The cost of drug addiction comes down each day the person is abstinent. Remember, the cost of drug addiction, can be your very life, at any given moment.

When calculating the cost of drug addiction it is always the addict who we can guarantee is suffering a low quality life. Esteem, job, finances, relationships and efficacy are some of the ways addicts suffer most. Addiction is a family disease. Usually the family suffer as well, and have been through hell by the time the addict is ready for recovery. Although each situation is unique the American psychiatric association has incredibly good guidelines that best describe addiction, the concept of addiction as a disease and the way out and through various addictions. Groups, societies and fellowships such as Smart Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and others are a great place to start looking for treatment. There are in patient drug rehabs, and out patient options. Starting at your doctors office is often a good idea. In other circumstances a psychiatrist is a good place to get an initial assessment as to your individual situation. Rehab, Depression Treatment and Dual diagnosis care is all readily available throughout South Africa and most of the modern world. It is however usually expensive exercise, drug rehab centres being one of the most expensive parts of it. However when calculating the cost of drug addiction, the lost time, money and relationships Drug rehab centres can be the cheapest and shortest route towards living a high quality, productive and purposeful life.

What is enabling

Drug Addiction Data

There are very, very few statistics available for drug addiction and the war on drugs in South Africa. A couple that may be close to accurate are:

  • A short survey from some of our clients is that R30 000-R100 000 a month for any addiction is a good average, whether cocaine, alcohol or otherwise. But a much larger research sample is needed to gain more accurate figures.
  • Most people go to three or more rehab centres before staying in recovery. (Some have been to 10….a few to 18 centres!).
  • A drug rehab centre offers approximately a 5% average success rate, although many claim up to 50% on their websites and marketing.
  • An estimated 1 in 10 people become addicted. In South Africa it could be as high as 15% of people.
  • The average rehab centre costs around R30 000 to R180 000 a month. A high price to pay for recovery.
  • AA and NA meetings also help millions of people heal and treat addictions, and are free of charge, in most parts of South Africa treating drug addiction, alcohol addiction and eating disorders. There are many other groups that treat Sex and Love addiction, Emotions and Gambling. Searching the web, speaking to your GP should help you find one of these meetings where you can meet others who can further help you to get involved.
  • There is NO cure for addiction. But, it can be arrested (stopped) and treated.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of Churches and Church Groups. There are many people, often qualified, who can help you move forward with your recovery here. Recovery is all about connection!
  • What people claim to loose from addiction is self-esteem, money, opportunities, relationships. They also claim to loose other drug addict friends through death, overdose, accidents such as care accidents, falling, crime and misjudgements or error.
  • Smart Recovery says addiction recovery is a choice. After 28 days of successful detoxification, the choice of staying in recovery is said to be available to people.
  • The only three outcomes for people who don’t seek addiction treatment are prison, death or an institution such as a hospital, drug rehab, or psychiatric hospital.
  • The prognosis for people who are honest, open and willing to recover is good. If you want recovery, you will get it. It works if you work it!

For more help on understanding the cost of drug addiction contact us on 0824424779, or email