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The Financial Cost of Addiction

The Cost of Different Addictions on the Individual & Society

Addiction can cost a person thousands of dollars per year depending on the substances that are bought and used. Add in the healthcare costs and the possible decline in income, and the heavy financial toll addiction pays becomes more and more apparent.

Financial barriers to seeking drug and alcohol rehab are a common concern. However, the value of seeking treatment, when and if affordable options are available, will exceed the costs incurred by addiction and will end up saving you money down the road.

Drug and alcohol treatment can also present more valuable benefits, such as skills-learning groups and access to a team of specialists capable of coordinating a personalized treatment plan.

The cost of alcohol abuse on society and the individual

Addiction Can Destroy Personal Finances

Even if your drug of choice is relatively affordable, the expenses associated with habitual alcohol and drug use add up quickly when your tolerance increases, forcing you to buy more and more of the substance to experience the desired effects.

There are other personal expenses associated with long-term substance abuse, including insurance and legal fees. For example, if you get charged with a DUI, not only will your car insurance premiums drastically increase, but you will most likely need an attorney which could affect your bank account drastically. You may end up depleting savings or retirement accounts to fund your habit or borrow money from friends and loved ones, promising to repay the loan, only to realize you can never make good on that guarantee.

Once you lose control of your finances, it can be a massive challenge to rebuild, which is one of the biggest hurdles people in recovery must overcome. Finding an addiction treatment program that offers coaching in life skills such as budgeting and fiscal responsibility can be a positive step.

Society Pays for Addiction

The estimated cost of drug abuse in the United States – including both legal and illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco – is more than $740 billion a year and growing [1]. Substance abuse in the U.S. increases healthcare-related costs, promotes criminal activity, and lowers overall productivity.

The personal cost of drug addiction is a cost often considered but it’s important to know the overall cost society pays for people’s drug addictions. Friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances – we all pay costs financially and personally in society’s collective fight against addiction.


Prescription opioid use, according to the CDC, has reached crisis levels in the United States. In 2020, more than 140 million opioid prescriptions were filled by patients in the United States – and this doesn’t account for opioids purchased illegally [2].

Opioids like Oxycodone and Vicodin can be an effective treatment for severe pain, but they can also be highly addictive, leading many to a dangerous pattern of opioid misuse and addiction. Older adults are a population commonly receiving these prescriptions, and with a slower drug metabolism, can be at great risk for developing a problem.

Since 2017, the economic cost of opioid misuse was estimated at $471 billion [3]. On an individual level, chronic opioid use can become very costly, with prices even higher for pills not received through a prescription.

Common opioids of use and average costs per pill include:

Taking opioids multiple times a day over time can add up, with higher doses costing even more. In addition, as a person develops a higher tolerance for opioids, higher doses will be needed to continue experiencing the same effects.

The majority of opioid-related costs in the United States occur as a result of fatalities. Non-fatal instances of opioid misuse make up only a fraction of the total cost, representing $72.7 billion of the total $504 billion.


Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the United States and leads to a problem that kills upwards of 93,000 people each year[4]. In 2016, the CDC reported an annual U.S economic loss of $249 billion due to the costs of excessive alcohol use[5]. This costs each citizen in the United States about $807 each year.
Binge-drinking drives the majority of this economic toll, linking back to 77 percent of the total cost[5]. Underage drinking and drinking while pregnant also make up sizable portions of this total cost. On a societal level, excessive drinking hurts the economy by causing significant losses of productivity in the workplace, healthcare costs, and more.
From a 2016 CDC report on heavy drinking, the breakdown of this total cost follows as[5]:

The expense of buying alcohol for heavy drinkers can cost upwards of thousands of dollars each year. Adding in the expenses of treating medical and mental health consequences of alcoholism can even further raise this cost.


Despite its continued legalization and public acceptance in many states, marijuana is still classified as a drug and adds to the same financial problem that many other drugs do. Marijuana can become addictive and will drain your wallet just as quickly as alcohol and cigarettes will, if not faster.

Marijuana typically costs between $150 and $400 per ounce across the United States, depending on availability and if it’s procured legally or not. Headset inc – a cannabis transaction service based in the US – estimates that the average American marijuana user spends around $645 a year on marijuana [7].

Add in other costs of marijuana usage like buying edibles, bongs, pipes, lighters, and other paraphernalia, and the per year cost of marijuana can reach well over $1,000 depending on consumption levels.

People with certain risk factors, lifestyles, or conditions may be at further risk for developing OUD. Furthermore, some risk factors increase the likelihood of a person turning to illegal drugs such as heroin. This is due to the low cost and easy availability.


The CDC states that an estimated 34.1 million American adults smoke cigarettes as of 2019[6]. The nicotine contained in cigarettes is among the most addictive substances in the world. Annually, smoking-related costs place a $300 billion burden on society.

The average price of a pack of cigarettes depends on the location, from a low of $5.25 in Virginia or Missouri to a high of $12.85 in New York. Leaving out these extremes, cigarettes cost between $6 and $8 a pack in most states.

Smoking can become a very costly habit:

Again, this is just in most states. In New York, smoking is so expensive that over 55% of the cigarettes smoked are smuggled in from out of state. But the cost of the cigarettes themselves is only part of the true cost of maintaining a smoking addiction.

Smokers can also expect:

In fact, smoking cigarettes cost the average user an astonishing $1.1 million over the course of their lifetime[8]. Again, these numbers vary by location. For example, smokers in Alaska will incur lifetime costs of over $2 million. That’s a very high cost to maintain an addiction.


Cocaine is a powerful and addictive illicit drug that first rose to popularity in the early 1980s and has generally declined in price since. Since the 1990s, cocaine prices have remained relatively steady, despite new legal barriers that make it more difficult for drug cartels to ship and distribute the drug.

The price of cocaine today varies based on location, the amount, and drug purity. On average, a gram of cocaine in the U.S. can cost between $93 and $163, depending on purity and location. This is equivalent to about ten lines, or twenty-five “bumps” of cocaine.

Depending on the severity of a person’s problem, cocaine addiction can result in costs of $8,000 to $10,000 a year. People with a severe cocaine addiction may spend more.


Heroin is an illicit opiate that sells between $5 and $20 a dose. For people with severe addictions, daily costs for heroin can range up to $150 to $200 a day. This can add up to $54,000 to $73,000 per year, without factoring in the financial burden of other heroin-related costs.

Compared to the prices of prescription opioids, heroin is often seen as a cheaper and more easily-obtainable alternative. It may sometimes be taken or mixed with other addictive opioids such as fentanyl.

Heroin is a powerful drug that can pose several dangers to physical and mental health. Having an addiction to heroin can make it difficult to keep a job, cause legal troubles, as well as increased healthcare costs, and other serious consequences. Heroin addiction also leads to increased costs on a societal scale due to higher incarceration rates, theft, and other criminal justice costs.

The Cost of Substance Abuse and Driving

The costs and consequences of driving under the influence (DUI) are very high. Law enforcement and the criminal justice system work diligently to send a message to people who drive under the influence and put their lives and the lives of others in danger.

Each state has its own penalties and fines for driving under the influence. The average cost of a DUI is around $6500[9] . This number depends on various costs such as:

If you are a repeat offender, the court may require that you enter a professional addiction treatment program, which will increase the price tag of a DUI. The $6500 figure also doesn’t account for time lost from work if you must attend court dates, probation appointments, community service, or drug rehab.

Convicted DUI offenders are also on the hook for the costs associated with court paperwork and court appearances. The length of the case and the severity of the DUI charge determine the amount of the court costs, but it’s usually in the hundreds.

If an individual was injured or killed as the result of a drunk driving incident, state funds pay restitution to the victim and/or their families. If you are responsible for the crash, you’ll be charged for the restitution fund, which depends on the state and severity of the injury. Other potential fees include a DMV reissue fee (to get your driver’s license back after a mandatory suspension) and an insurance premium increase.

Don’t Let Addiction Cost You

Overcoming addiction is no easy feat, but when one considers the myriad of health and financial obstacles addiction can present it can be clear that it is a necessary undertaking. You’re not alone in your journey – our staff at Wavelengths Recovery will be more than happy to offer our support in finding a drug treatment program that is suited for your needs.


1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Trends and Statistics. Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics

2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Drug Overdose. Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/rxrate-maps/index.html

3. Feijun L, PhD (2021, April 16). State-Level Economic Costs of Opioid Use Disorder and Fatal Opioid Overdose. Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7015a1.htm

4. Boston University (2020, July 31). Alcohol Kills 255 People Per Day in the US. Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2020/alcohol-kills-255-people-per-day-in-the-us/

5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy. Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/features/excessive-drinking.html

6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States.Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/cig_smoking/index.htm

7. Burke, K (2016, July 26). Who’s smoking (legal) marijuana? Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/whos-smoking-legal-marijuana-2016-07-26

8. Meyer, Z (2015, January 22). Smoking burns up as much as $2 million in a lifetime. Retrieved December 27th, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/22/cost-of-smoking/22144969/

9. McCurley, J. How Much Does a First Offense DUI Cost? Retrieved December 27th, from https://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/how-much-does-a-first-offense-dui-cost.htm

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