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Costs of Substance Addiction

This year's theme for Recovery Month is It's Worth It. When you think about the cost of addiction, you may be forced to think about the amount of money people spend on their actual drug of choice. However, the cost of addiction goes much deeper than that. There are societal costs which rarely get factored into this equation. These include some or all of the following:

  • If people are unable to hold down steady employment, they or their family may turn to the government for assistance to help meet their needs. The Department of Children and Family Services, which is funded by the government, will bear this cost.
    • If people are able to work, and engaging in substance use, their tendency to have reduced production, increased error rates and increased absenteeism incurs costs for the employer which are often, unfortunately, passed on to the public.

  • If people are committing offences to support their addiction and become caught up in the legal system, whether it is just the costs incurred due to court appearances and legal fees, or whether they find themselves on parole, probation or incarcerated, the judicial system, which is also funded by the government, will bear this cost. The cost of maintaining a person in prison has been cited to be in the region of $50,000-60,000 per year.
    • Costs are also associated with the victims of the crime. For example, as a result of shop lifting, or robbery, business owners will pass the costs onto consumers in order to maintain their profit margins.

  • If people have misused drugs for years their health will inevitably be compromised, and as many are indigent or without insurance, this cost will fall upon government's health care system. Allied costs can be their absence from work which incurs costs to their employers through sick time and/or absenteeism. In the private sector, these costs are passed on to the consumer.
  • Families can be destroyed because of addiction. The costs associated with this can have many layers. Non-using partners may need government assistance if they are unemployed, the partners and children may require counselling due to the emotional and psychological effects of living with addiction in the home, and then there are the emotional costs of all those who care but are unable to help.
  • The cost to society with the loss of potentially valuable and contributing members is difficult to gauge, but it is obvious that the benefit from such persons would greatly exceed the value from one who, through their use of substances, has become a non-productive member.

When someone finally reaches out for help, recovery is not without cost either. The government funded agencies that provide services include: The Counselling Centre which provides outpatient treatment programmes, Caribbean Haven Residential Centre where residential treatment services are offered, and The Family Resource Centre which provides parenting, family, and adolescent support.

So yes, recovery has costs, many of which are financial. However, it is, in comparison to ongoing substance use, a short term and sometimes onetime cost.

Once a person has attained recovery, all of the costs associated with the addiction begin to dissipate. Persons who were once a burden to society are now able to secure and maintain employment. They are no longer caught up in the judicial system; instead they are taking better care of their physical health and providing their own health care coverage.

So when we look at all of the costs associated with addiction and compare that with the cost of recovery, we can only come to one conclusion -- Recovery…..Because It's Worth It!

Lynn Robinson

Programme Coordinator

Caribbean Haven Residential Centre