Understanding The Relationship Between Poverty And Drug Addiction

by Christiana Joseph
5 min read


He staggered down the sidewalk, barely putting one foot in front of the other. This misguided gait was a depiction of his frailty. A few hours more, and he’d likely collapse in an alley somewhere. He was certain of it. He couldn’t remember how he got here. Was it his trauma response kicking in, or did the universe hate his guts?

This wasn’t about meeting a need anymore. His life depended on it. It’s beyond him now. He either succumbs to its demands or loses it all. He’d been stuck for almost a decade. He needed it to feel normal. His body yearned for it. You’d think he’d despise it, and you’d be right, but he couldn’t get himself to live without it. It was the only thing he knew he could rely on anyway.

The temperature in the Baltimore suburb where he lived was over 100 degrees. He had just finished his shift at a pizza shop, passing out fliers with weekly specials. Your guess is as good as mine, he spends almost every dollar he makes to pacify the demands of this insatiable beast. The street has become his abode and eating, is somewhat a luxurious experience. Every day came with its fair share of struggle. This is a typical story of someone caught in the quicksand of drug addiction.

There are so many reasons why addiction thrives in our society, with poverty being one of the common enablers. It is a long-held belief that drug addiction and poverty are inextricably linked. Although it is difficult to understand how an unemployed person or someone with a low-income job can afford the costly lifestyle of drug addiction, it is a reality worth shedding light on. The cyclic scenario in some cases is that addiction causes poverty, and for others, poverty opens them up for addiction. However, the relationship between drug addiction and poverty is often more complicated than the above-stated analogy.

What are the economic conditions of drug addiction and poverty?

It is critical to remember that people addicted to drugs do not develop an addiction simply because they are poor. But in cases of an untreated drug or alcohol addiction, someone in the middle class can easily slip into poverty. As addiction progresses, it becomes more likely that a person will have difficulty performing optimally at work. This could include arriving late, missing shifts, failing to meet project deadlines, or constantly arguing with coworkers. This can eventually lead to job loss. It’s a given, that being fired for poor performance will make it more difficult to find another job. This increases the person’s stress level and provides an incentive to engage in criminal activity — all these desperately fund continued substance abuse.

Here are more ways poverty affects the drug addiction lifestyle…

Financial difficulties are notorious for increasing a person’s risk of becoming drug addicted, and these facts below are pointers to look out for;

#1. Poverty exacerbates stress

Research has shown that stress is a common risk factor connected to substance abuse and relapse after treatment. Constant worrying about shelter, food, and other necessities can cause heightened stress levels. When you’re struggling to make ends meet, it’s easy to turn to drugs or alcohol for solace.

#2. Poverty encourages feelings of hopelessness

When it becomes difficult to meet desired expenses, like dreams of attending college, purchasing a home, starting a business, or when touring the world appears implausible. Feeling powerless over your future makes you more vulnerable to substance abuse, as it could help you escape reality temporarily.

#3. Poverty lowers one’s self-esteem

Being poor can feel like a moral failing in a culture that values material possessions and financial success. This can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. Studies have shown that people who struggle with low self-esteem are more likely to seek solace in the temporal and toxic embrace of addiction.

#4. Poverty reduces social support

Emotional support from our loved ones can help us cope with difficult life situations. Lower-income earning adults, on the other hand, are less likely to have strong social support networks, simply because they are expending all their energy on surviving from day to day. For example, according to a UCLA survey, lower-income adults are less likely to be married, even though they value marriage as much as their higher-income counterparts.

How do we find solutions to poverty and drug addiction?

Job security is a major way to break the link between drug addiction and poverty, and for good reason. We as humans seek meaning in our lives and have a reason to get up every day when we earn our own money. This naturally gives a person a sense of worth and relevance.  Jobs can also help people leave impoverished areas where drug abuse is prevalent, and as such, jobs that provide people with the opportunity to rise above the poverty line must be created. A conscious attempt at self-development, like courses that teach life skills and self-actualization, as well as hobbies, can help individuals find meaning in life.

We all know the power knowledge wields and how it influences decision-making. Hence the need for quality education, which is a great way to help people get out of poverty. You might notice that many people who come from single-parent homes in poorer regions tend to forfeit good education. That might be due to a lack of strong family bonds. When a family is bonded with love, they are likely to push one another to achieve set goals. Having strong family role models who encourage their children to attend school can help build the next generation of hardworking individuals who will consciously lift themselves out of poverty. There is no quick fix; it begins with a generation that can lay the groundwork for the next generation. Will you be part of that generation?


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