The Relationship Between Poverty And Addiction

The relationship between poverty and drug addiction is one of the major issues facing the United States. There are a number of policies at the state and federal levels that may help people break the cycle of substance abuse and poverty.

The Relationship Between Poverty And Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction can afflict anyone, regardless of their level of education, employment status, or socioeconomic status. 

Nevertheless, people with fewer financial resources are often more susceptible to addiction, and prolonged substance abuse can also lead to poverty.

Once a person falls into this cycle, it can be very difficult to get out. 

There are several ways to address the correlation between poverty and drug abuse, including increased access to affordable addiction treatment programs and mental health services.    

Why Poverty And Addiction Are Correlated 

The connection between drug addiction and people with low incomes is complicated. 

Some people fall into poverty because they’re using all their resources on drugs, and others may be using substances to relieve the stress caused by a dire economic situation.   

Financial Instability Causes Stress

People who have to constantly worry about how to afford shelter, food, utilities, or other basic needs are under immense stress. 

Feeling powerless in the face of poverty can drive people to use drugs or alcohol as an escape from their circumstances. 

Mental Illness And Poverty

According to data from the United Kingdom, people living in the lower 20% income bracket were two to three times more likely to have mental health issues than households at the top.

Mental health disorders can greatly increase the risk that someone will become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

People with co-occurring mental health disorders can benefit from dual diagnosis treatment, which will address both the chemical dependency and any underlying mental health issues.     


Unemployment is a contributing factor for substance abuse. The jobless rate among working-age men was up to 37% for residents of economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.   

Prolonged unemployment will increase the chances that a person will fall into poverty. Once in poverty, job hunting becomes even more difficult. 

Even among the employed, addiction can make someone miss work, fail drug tests, or not be able to adequately perform the basic tasks of their jobs, all of which threaten employment status. 

Financial stress, as well as a diminished sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem may lead some people to drug use.  

Decrease Of Social Support

Having the support of friends and family can help people navigate difficult times in their life.

Poverty tends to weaken the bonds of support networks due to the amount of time and energy being spent trying to make ends meet every day. 

As social bonds begin to fray, people living in poverty may turn to drug or alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism. 

Ways To Address The Issue Of Poverty And Addiction

Understanding the complex cycle of poverty and addiction is difficult, but there are a number of viable solutions at the state and federal levels that may help people rebuild their lives.  

Free And Low-Cost Drug Rehab Programs

One of the most common barriers to addiction treatment is the inability to afford a rehab program. 

While some addiction treatment centers are quite costly, there are a number of free or state-funded rehab centers that provide evidence-based care at little to no expense. 


Access to adequate education can greatly increase the chance of overcoming poverty. 

Investments in job training, trade schools, and educational resources in disadvantaged neighborhoods can help people find a job that will pay them a living wage.   


Some countries such as Portugal and Switzerland have decriminalized or legalized all drugs in an effort to recognize addiction as an illness and not a law enforcement issue. 

This solution has shown promise, as Portugal has seen an 80% decrease in overdose deaths. 

Additionally, incarceration for drug use can make it harder for people to find adequate work after they get out of jail, which may increase the risk of relapse. 

Recognizing substance abuse as an illness and prioritizing treatment over punishment may help reduce poverty and overall rates of drug use.   

Increased Access To Healthcare

Another major barrier to getting addiction care is inaccessible mental and behavioral healthcare services.

People with low incomes typically qualify for government-run insurance programs such as Medicaid. Many rehab centers accept Medicaid insurance as a form of payment. 

If Medicaid insurance is not an option, there are also a number of scholarships and grants to pay for addiction treatment throughout the United States.  

Drug And Alcohol Treatment Programs

Enrolling in an evidence-based treatment program is the first step in recovery for you or your loved ones battling addiction

Drug and alcohol treatment options may include:

Whether poverty is a factor in your substance use or not, seeking help from qualified behavioral health professionals can assist you in achieving lasting sobriety.  

Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment Today

Call today for more useful information about addiction recovery programs. 

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