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Anna Christine Cazier

Gary Cox
Criminal Justice 1010
20 April 2016

The High Cost of Chemical Addiction

The High Cost of Chemical Addiction

Anna Christine Cazier

Chemical addictions costs affect individuals, families and society as a

whole. Whether it is illegal or prescription drug abuse or alcohol abuse, it is a
devastating cancer eating at America. Most people know someone who is
either an addict or whose life has been severely affected by another addict.
The introduction of chemical addiction into a persons life can begin
even before they are born when the mother is drinking or using drugs. If the
family unit is already non-functioning and a member is an addict, the childs
indoctrination begins

shortly after birth. In school, kids are

taught about resisting peer pressure and the negative consequences of

drugs and alcohol. In a lot of cases even before high school is over, kids are
faced with the reality of the temptation involved. In an effort to escape from
trauma and misery, assorted chemicals are used to fix lifes problems.
Once someone starts down the road of abuse, stopping or reversing the
process can be close to impossible.
The magnitude of the problem
This impacts individuals, families and communities across every
socioeconomic parameter. Indeed, drug and alcohol abuse tears at the very
fabric of society. Since society is made up of individuals, we must work on
this problem first as individuals in order to make any impact on the problem
as society. The family is supposed to be the first line of defense, the primary
support for the individual. The family unit is disappearing and becoming

devalued and trivialized, so society is having to intervene as the primary

Not everyone who abuses alcohol commits crime, but everyone who
abuses prescription drugs or uses illegal drugs commits crime, according to a
web article titled, U.S. leads the world in illegal drug use. (CBS News,
WebMD). So to say that the magnitude of the problem is large is an
understatement. Substance abuse costs our nation more than $484 billion
per year. The costs of drug abuse are as substantial as that of other
chronic conditions. (Magnitude) This article also says that diabetes,
comparatively, only costs society $131.7 billion and cancer $171.6 billion per
year and that this includes health care expenditures, lost earnings, and
costs associated with crime and accidents. This is an enormous burden that
affects all of society those who abuse these substances, and those who
Alcohol is still the deadliest drug in the United States, and its not
even close. (Pollack) The article goes on to say that, Its involved in more
homicides than pretty much every other substance, combined. Pollack
suggests that you are also much more likely to be a victim if you are drinking
as well, almost 40% of the homicide victims had some blood alcohol in their
systems when they were killed. In a three-year study, Illegal drugs and
alcohol helped lead to the imprisonment of 4 out of 5 inmates in the nations
prisons and jails. (Wren)

Cost to Society
According to the Office of National Drug Policy, the economic cost of
drug abuse in 2002 was estimated to be approximately $181 billion
productivity loss, or the indirect costs of drug abuse, which included loss
from criminal activities and incarceration as well as illness and mortality,
accounted for 71% of cost. (Cost Review)
The toll this takes on the health care system is incredible. From the
violence that is a result of it all the way to when a person either decides to or
is ordered to go to treatment, hospitals and doctors are involved. In order to
start a treatment program, an addict must first be medically detoxed, then
comes the rehab/treatment center, followed by outpatient treatment and
possibly transitional housing.
Another article discusses that insurance companies, taxpayers and the
government, victims and their families and employers are the ones that pick
up the tab for violent crimes. Crime victim compensation accounts for 38
percent of homeowners insurance payments and 29 percent of auto
insurance payments. In the United States, more than 23 million criminal
offenses were committed in 2007, resulting in approximately $15 billion in
economic losses to the victims and $179 billion in government expenditures
on police protection, judicial and legal activities, and corrections. (Fineline
Foundation). From the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Inc. (NCADD) we learn that an addict is also more likely to be on food stamps
and need child welfare. (Alcohol, Drugs and Crime)
Within the criminal justice system alone, addiction increases the need
and quantity of resources. It increases the need for personnel from such
wide-ranging positions as police, lawyers, judges, forensics, court personnel,
parole officers, clerks, security and prison personnel and others. Also, it
creates a need for more facilities such as courthouses, jails, prisons and
treatment centers.
Societal Issues:
Homelessness is a big issue linked to this problem: 31% of Americas
homeless suffer from drug abuse or alcoholism. (Magnitude)
Other social problems include (DWI) driving while intoxicated. More
than one million people are arrested annually for driving while intoxicated,
which is the third most commonly reported crime in the United States.
(Alcohol, Drugs and Crime) Property crime, violence and trafficking as well as
others are also included in the dramatic effect on society.
There are essentially three types of crimes related to drugs:

Use-related crime: These are crimes that result from or involve

individuals who ingest drugs and who commit crimes as a result of the
effect the drug has on their thought processes and behavior.

Economic-related crime: These are crimes where an individual

commits a crime in order to fund a drug habit. These include theft and

System-related crime: These are crimes that result from the structure
of the drug system. They include production, manufacture,
transportation and sale of drugs, as well as violence related to the
production or sale of drugs, such as a turf war. (Alcohol, Drugs and

Alcohol-related crime tends to be mostly violent. Alcohol, more than any

illegal drug, was found to be closely associated with violent crimes, including
murder, rape, assault and child and spousal abuse. (Wren)
Potential components of addiction:
Mental illness can be a major component. About 74% of state
prisoners who had a mental health problem were dependent on or abused
alcohol or drugs. (Drug Use and Crime)
Other people at greater risk for dependency are those who are in
poverty, have a genetic predisposition, lack of education, are victims of
abuse or traumatic events. Those where a breakdown of the family structure
is prominent or are in high-stress situations, also adolescents and people
with injuries or an illness or declining morality, are more susceptible to
turning to drugs or alcohol.
The Cost to Families

Apart from the financial toll, there is a growing loss of relationships and
support systems from the stress it inflicts on those who love an addict.
Theres a high rate of domestic violence, with verbal, child and spousal
abuse. Also the chances are high for child neglect. Addiction is a family
disease. It affects the entire family.
The Cost to Individuals
Devolving morality:
When someone is reliant on a chemical for their happiness, denial is
one of the first problems. It is a lie to themselves that is a beginning to lying
to others and about almost everything. Addicts are compulsive liars. This
evolves into self-justification for the declining morals that happen as the
person becomes more and more willing to do things that he/she wouldnt
have done previously. Almost without exception this includes breaking the
law, which also starts small and grows into more and more serious crimes.
There is a desperation to get the next fix that precludes anything else, from
people to jobs to health and consequences.
Cost on Health:
With alcohol there is a risk of cirrhosis of the liver and pancreatitis,
both of which are deadly. It affects the brain in many ways. Alcohol
impairs the brains executive system -- the parts of the brain used in
decision-making and problem solving. (Diego) The longer a person drinks
(or uses drugs), the more brain damage is done. They can get to the point

where its irreversible. Their balance is thrown off, and falls and injury are
more likely.
Cost on Mental Health:
Addiction costs the person their emotional stability. For those who
already had mental health issues, the cost is even greater. Also, when a
person starts chemical addiction, their emotional maturity is halted at the
age they started. You can have a 45- to 50-year-old person with the maturity
of a 16-year-old. With addiction almost always comes suicidal thoughts and
Drug-abuse-related illness is on the rise. (Cost Review) Another result
of addiction is a lack of appetite. There comes a point with both alcoholics
and drug addicts where eating is a distant memory and the only goal is the
The cost to maintain addiction:
Ive known people who spent $1,000 per day on drugs, others who
spent $1,000,000 in the course of two years. There is nothing these people I
knew wouldnt do, short of murder, to get their drugs, but there are plenty
who even resort to that. To maintain addiction, it involves intense
manipulation and/or theft to pay for their drug of choice (DOC), but there is
always a way.
Loss of relationships:

The addicted person will eventually burn through every relationship

they have. They will use up every ounce of goodwill anyone close to them
has for them. They will sacrifice everyone they once loved for love of their
DOC. This leaves them with no resources to call upon except for society and
the government if and when they decide to try to stop.
Pain and suffering:
Despite the fact that an addict is numbing himself every time he drinks
or use, the mental suffering and anguish is extreme. The loss of self-esteem
and self-respect is excruciating. Also, the pain over the lost loved ones is
terrible. This goes on and on, with attempts at sobriety failing over and over
due to the magnitude of the illness. People say all the time that, you have
to hit rock-bottom before you are willing to change, but there is always
another rock-bottom, the final one being death. You do, however, have to be
ready to change. All of the help in the world wont make a difference if the
person doesnt want it. The only alternatives besides recovery for an addict
are jails, institutions or death.
I knew one girl that at age 21, her parents had sent her to 21 rehabs
and spent over $250,000. Most families dont have that kind of money, nor
are they willing to keep attempting to send their loved one to facilities when
they dont want to go.

Although this is not a solution, it is a very possible outcome. There are

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) buildings with walls devoted to people who have
died from their disease. There are those who accidently overdose, those who
overdose on purpose and those who are a result of continuous use that met
their end by possible accident or carelessness.
The problem with this is recidivism. The repeat offender is almost a
guaranteed course without treatment. This is a costly, ineffective way to deal
with addiction, but since addiction can lead to all sorts of highly criminal
activities, it is also appropriate for some.
Drug court:
As of June 2014, the estimated number of drug courts operating in the
U.S. is over 3,400. (Drug Courts) Researchers also found that drug courts
reduced recidivism among program participants in contrast to comparable
This is where a person can end up after severe brain damage who will
need permanent assistance. Mental institutions and nursing homes are for
the most severe cases.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

(SAMHSA) estimated the expenditure on treatment for drug use totaled $8.5
billion in 2001 with state and local governments paying for 38 percent of
those costs. (Cost Review) They go on to say that studies show that,
investment in treatment is valuable, furthermore, produces better outcomes
with more cost-effectiveness than incarceration. The NCADD found that not
only does it save money, but that, each dollar spent on substance abuse
treatment saved $5.60 in terms of fewer arrests, incarcerations, food stamp
use, and less child welfare and medical costs. (NCADD)
Another estimate says that about half of the prisoners met Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for drug abuse or
dependence, and yet fewer than 20 percent who needed treatment received
it. (Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment)
For a person to successfully navigate recovery from a severe addiction,
there is usually a series of steps that are critical to maintaining sobriety. First,
they must medically detox, in order to make sure they are safely weaning
their body off of their DOC. Then an in-patient treatment/rehab is necessary,
followed by an outpatient/aftercare program. Some need transitional
housing, but all will need support groups, usually AA or NA. They will need to
find a sponsor and enter a therapy program as well, usually followed by a
life-long struggle complicated by relapses. All of this has to happen in order
for the recovering addict to eventually become a functioning member of

My first personal introduction to this world was with my first love. He

died at 21 from a heroin overdose. I, myself have dealt with mental disorders
and addiction. It has been a life-changing journey and has opened my
awareness to this widespread problem.


Works Cited
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Diego, Kimberly. "The Link Between Alcohol and Domestic Violence Crimes." The Link
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