Income Inequality Affects Recovery

May 1, 2017

Addiction is a behavioral disease that has affected every demographic in the United States, as well as throughout the world, regardless of class, color, or creed. However, it would be highly disingenuous to suggest that there aren’t socioeconomic factors that play a part in the landscape of addiction that we are witnessing today, especially if we, as a society, want to take meaningful steps to combat addiction and save lives. In particular, class economics have a big part to play in addiction, by the numbers. Here are some important things to remember about the connection between income inequality and addiction…

Addiction rates after youth are key

First of all, it’s important to note that people who get addicted tend to be from every economic class. What is different, however, is the capacity that each class has to reach recovery and eliminate substance abuse from their lives. For 90% of addicts, addiction usually starts in earlier years, particularly as teenagers or young adults. It’s what happens after those years that you start to see the effects of income inequality.

Cost-effective treatment isn’t always available

The most obvious economic factor that comes into play is that there aren’t always a lot of treatment options available for lower class families and individuals, at least not at an affordable rate for them. In addition to this, unemployed individuals suffer addiction at a rate twice as high as the standard addiction rate. Since those who struggle financially are at a higher risk of suffering from addiction, it creates a self-sustaining cycle of conditions where substance abuse happens more frequently and where care is unaffordable to help.

Addiction rates are always lowest among the middle class

What makes this picture of income inequality and addiction so interesting, however, is that addiction rates don’t drop as you climb the economic ladder, at least not continuously. Instead, they tend to only decline in the midst of the middle class. Although more research needs to be conducted on why this is, it can be surmised that, since middle class individuals tend to have more time consuming responsibilities, that substance abuse isn’t necessarily feasible, at least not as they get older.

Low-income unemployed individuals are often in a desperate situation with plenty of free time when they turn to substance abuse. However, in the wealthiest circles in America, a similar trend of substance abuse tends to emerge again, where individuals don’t need to work, but have the resources to sustain a prolonged drug habit.