How Does Addiction Affect Low-Income Americans?

Addiction is believed to be more common among low-income Americans, in part because of social determinants of health, like access to healthcare. Addiction can also exacerbate financial problems, as well as pose serious health risks to people living in poverty.

Addiction Among Low-Income Americans

Addiction is a chronic, serious disease that doesn’t discriminate by a person’s age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, or any other identifying characteristic.

Still, addiction is found to be more common in low-income Americans, in part because of social determinants of health, and other risk factors, such as discrimination and major life stressors.

What Makes Addiction More Common Among Low-Income Americans?

Social determinants of health, defined by the World Health Organization as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age” can affect your risk for addiction.

For example, your education level, access to healthcare, and living in an area that is economically disadvantaged, with higher rates of poverty and unemployment.

Why is this the case? Research shows that being unable to meet basic needs can increase the risk for drug and alcohol abuse, in part because of the role that addictive substances can serve.

For instance, a person may use drugs as a way to cope with life stressors, to escape them, or to numb the emotions associated with them — anger, shame, guilt, depression, or hopelessness.

Illicit drugs, prescription drugs (e.g. opioids), and alcohol can also be used to self-medicate symptoms of a mental health disorder, like PTSD, depression, or schizophrenia.

What Are The Risk Factors For Addiction?

Addiction cannot typically be traced back to a single cause. Instead, experts believe this is more often influenced by a variety of factors, including those that are out of a person’s control.

Risk factors for addiction can include:

  • family history of substance abuse
  • early exposure to drugs/alcohol (including legal and illegal drugs)
  • low self-esteem
  • major life stressors (e.g. unemployment, divorce)
  • having a mental health disorder (e.g. PTSD, depression)
  • history of trauma, abuse, or neglect
  • a weak or nonexistent social support system
  • discrimination (e.g. racial discrimination)

What Are The Effects Of Addiction Among Low-Income Americans?

Addiction can have profound effects on someone’s mental health, physical health, as well as a person’s relationships, social life, and financial situation.

This can negatively affect your ability to function in everyday life. For instance, your ability to work, go to school, maintain meaningful, healthy relationships, and find joy in social activities.

Risks and dangers of addiction can include:

  • job loss/unemployment
  • legal troubles (e.g. from the use of illicit drugs)
  • financial problems
  • strained relationships
  • chronic health problems (e.g. hypertension, certain cancers)
  • risk of committing/becoming a victim of violence
  • higher risk for drug overdose death

What Resources Are Available For Low-Income Americans With Addiction?

Addiction is a serious disease that can have life-threatening consequences if left untreated.

Unfortunately, addiction treatment is notoriously expensive and difficult to access if you are lower income, lack health insurance, or face other common barriers to addiction treatment.

But that doesn’t leave you without options. Here are some treatment resources/options available for those with harmful drug use behaviors who are lower-income:

Government Funded Rehab

Behavioral health rehab centers that are funded by federal, state, or local dollars will often provide free or low-cost treatment for people who qualify based on their income eligibility.

Government-funded treatment providers may offer:

  • detoxification for drug or alcohol dependence
  • inpatient treatment options
  • outpatient treatment options
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • sober living services

Treatment centers that are federally funded or state-funded may accept public health insurance such as Medicaid or Medicare, as well as provide free treatment for those who are uninsured.

Learn more about state-funded alcohol and drug rehab centers.

Faith-Based Drug Or Alcohol Rehab

Some faith-based organizations in the United States offer treatment for drug and alcohol use disorders that is free of charge for people who are low-income or homeless.

Learn more about faith-based rehab for addiction.

Free Addiction Recovery Support Groups

Some support groups, including those run by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), are cost-free, and can bridge an important gap for people who lack access to a formal treatment program.

Community-based support groups may not be an adequate replacement for intensive treatment, but they may help connect people with addiction to additional resources in the community.

Other Ways To Access Free Drug Rehab 

In addition to state-funded rehab, a faith-based rehab program, or support groups, there do exist a number of other options for reducing treatment costs or finding treatment at no cost.

Other ways to make drug rehab free include:

Find Free Treatment For Drug Abuse And Addiction Today

Social and economic disparities can play a role in the development of drug addiction, as well as your access to effective treatment options.

At, it’s our goal to connect people with limited financial resources to substance abuse treatment options that are affordable, high-quality, and evidence-based. 

Call our helpline today to find free or low-cost addiction treatment options for yourself or a loved one at a treatment facility near you.

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Free Rehab Centers aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.


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