Related Tie Between Economic Status and Substance Abuse

An individual or household’s economic status is determined by the class or bracket under which they belong, depending on the level of income production. About 122,459,000 families earned money in 2012, with 4.5 percent of them earning over $200,000. [1] What is an economic status? Economic status is defined as the level at which an individual is usually based on income. There are three different economic status levels in the world today, which are:

The lower class: Poverty, homelessness, and unemployment, characterize the lower economic status. Medical care, sufficient housing and food, proper clothing, safety, and vocational training are all issues that this class faces, even though few have completed high school. The media also stigmatizes the people in the lower economic status as “the underclass,” incorrectly portraying poor people as welfare mothers who exploit the system by having an increasing number of children and welfare fathers who are willing to work but do not. These fathers are seen as drug addicts, offenders, and societal “trash.”

The middle class: The “sandwich” class is the middle class economic status. These white-collar employees earn more than those in lower positions on the “income pyramid” but less than those in higher positions. They are divided into two groups based on their income, education, and status. Managers, small business owners, teachers, and secretaries make up the lower middle class, which is mainly made up of less educated individuals with lower incomes. Doctors, attorneys, investment bankers, and CEOs are common upper-middle class members, as are highly educated business and technical people with high incomes.

The upper class: This economic status, which makes up just 1 to 3% of the US society, owns more than 25% of the country’s total income. There are two classes in this economic status level in this class: lower-upper and upper-upper. Many with “new income,” or money gained by savings, business projects, and other means, belong to the lower upper class. Aristocratic and “high-society” households of “old money” that have been wealthy for decades make up the upper-upper class. The income through their inherited wealth supports these highly wealthy citizens.  The upper-upper class has a higher social status than the lower-upper class.

Those earning from $39,736 to $104,087 during that year were classified as middle-class on the economic status level. [2]

Stereotypes of Addiction Based on Economic Status

Addiction happens in a variety of settings and influences distinct people from all areas of life. But how did the stereotype that all of the addicts are uneducated, homeless, and jobless (people considered on the lower economic status) come to be? To build on that notion, many people naturally conclude that addiction is a condition that only affects the lazy or weak-willed. 23.1 million individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol tell a different story.[3]

How Does Economic Status Affect Addiction?

WHO defines addiction as the repeated usage of a psychoactive drug or substances to the point that the patient (attributed to as an addict) is periodically or permanently high, experiences an urge to take the desired substance (or substances), has considerable difficulty willingly ceasing or altering substance use, and has a strong desire to procure psychoactive substances by almost any way. The amount of money you have or the economic status you belong too has a very low impact on your propensity for addiction. These myths arise because drug abuse is more prevalent among people who live in so much poverty or have a lower socioeconomic status; nevertheless, the two are not causally related, and this does not demonstrate the cause and the effect.

Substance abuse, on the other hand, is something of a natural result of the lifestyles of those with insufficient financial capital i.e. those on the lower economic status. The indirect relation is typically spread through a number of underlying risk factors rather than being limited to a single source. A mother who is neglectful and has been out of her place of living and staying in state housing with all of her kids, for example, may unconsciously pass on the daily habit of burying her pain and sorrow in alcohol. This is a product of both environmental and genetic factors.

Popular Related Tie Between Substance Abuse and Economic Status are:

  • Level of Education
  • Abuse and Neglect
  • Genetics
  • State of one’s Mental Health
  • Individual’s Race
  • Parental Drug and Alcohol Use
  • Level of Economic Status: Wealth vs. Poverty

It’s not that a rich person on the upper economic status can not suffer these exact same kind of traumas; it is just that there is a lesser tendency for that to happen in non-poverty households. In other words, the many risk factors that may lead people to drug addiction and abuse are more common in households on the lower economic status and areas than areas and families on the high economic status.

>>> READ THIS NEXT: Signs That Addiction and Mental Health Are Co-occurring

Level of Education

In summary, people with more education have lesser tendencies to be drug addicts. What would that imply for the people who cannot afford a college education because of their economic status? A study of seniors from high school  between 1981 to 1986 reported a five-year decrease in drug abuse rates; nevertheless, the most important drop was amidst students with more affluent parents on the higher economic status level, which dropped from 36.7% down to 23.7%. Even so, amidst students that had parents who were not chanced to attend high school due to their familis’ economic status, the smallest change was a 2.7% drop from a percentage of 25.4 to 22.7%. [4]

The amount of education an individual has is significantly connected to their substance abuse propensity. Research conducted in 2004 discovered that there was a correlation between one’s educational level and drug abuse. One’s level of education is greatly affected by their economic status. According to the report, those with the lowest levels of education were found to be heavy smokers, heavy drinkers, and inactive on a regular basis. In addition, almost half of those in opioid or alcohol abuse care never went to school or graduated high school, as found in the research.

Neglect and Abuse

We’ve known for quite some time that neglect and childhood violence are risk factors for later-life substance abuse.  About 70 percent of recorded cases of neglect and childhood violence over a period of 10 years included alcohol or drug abuse. [5]  The adult drug offenders are 2.7 times have more tendency to misuse and 4.2 times much more probable to neglect their children. [6] We also recognize that families with the lower economic status are more probable to have a similar history.

Although this two distinct cases do not indicate causal correlation, the evidence is convincing enough to view neglect/abuse and poverty/lower economic status as activators of addiction to drugs. In reality, combining the two may increase a person’s risk of alcohol and drug abuse. According to a survey of offices in state welfare, the top two issues in their child protection cases were poverty (lower economic status), alcohol use and/or parental drug as claimed by 85%. [7]

Genetics (DNA)

When it boils down to drug abuse, genetics plays almost as important a part as the climate. About 40% to 60% of an addict’s proclivity to drug abuse is attributed to genetic factors. [8] Does genetics, on the other hand, have some bearing on socioeconomic status? There always exist exclusions to this rule, however, wealth tends to breed wealth much of the time, and this could be attributed to schooling, with families of higher-income having more children who go to college. 

According to one report, high scores in SAT are associated with higher economic status families in general. [9]

According to Volkow, the number of D2 dopamine receptors may one day be used to determine whether or not someone would become addicted to alcohol, cocaine, or heroin. People with fewer D2 receptors seem to be more likely to become addicted than those with more receptors, according to brain imaging, and how many receptors individuals have is partly genetically determined.

State of One’s Mental Health

Among the most well-documented risk factors for drug misuse is mental health. About 29% of people who have been diagnosed of a particular mental illness still misuse alcohol or drug. [10] With 43.7 million U.S. citizens suffering from mental illness, there are so many people living with co-existing disorders. [11] Similarly, mental disorder isn’t picky on who it affects. Depression, bipolar disorder, and some other mental well-being problems impact a significant number of people belonging to the higher economic status. However, people with a lower socioeconomic status are more likely to experience many of these disorders.

Those with a household income of not up to $20,000 have the highest rate of serious mental disorder (16.3%).

Those with higher parental income grades of $75,000 and above belonging to the higher economic status have the lowest rates of serious mental illness (6.4 percent). [12] 

The correlation isn’t any simpler with mental disorder than it is with everything else we’ve addressed so far, but it’s clear that the economic status is able to impact mental health risks, which can trigger substance abuse risks. It’s a downward spiral of the cause and the effect. A different research found that, with the exception of schizophrenia, poverty is more likely to occur before the onset of mental health disorders. [13]

Individual’s Race

In today’s globe, there still exist a significant disparity between wealth (being on the higher economic status) and races. In 2009, the median household income for Hispanics was $38,039; for African Americans was $32,584; and for Caucasians, it was $51,861. [14]

The rate of substance abuse by Caucasians is greater than that of African Americans based on their economic status and background. In a sample of about 72,561 young adults, 37 per cent confessed to using drugs or alcohol, with nine per cent being white and five per cent were black.

Although there is a difference in incidence rates of mental disorders among races and socio-economic status, there is a minor factor to consider here. Self-reported cases of poor mental health affect 33.3 per cent of white people, 34.4 per cent of Hispanics, and 35.5 per cent of black people, in the United States alone. [16]

Abuse of Alcohol and Parental Drug

The use of drugs and alcohol by parents during childhood may result in the abuse of alcohol and drugs during adulthood. Parents who drink alcohol are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence in their children later in life regardless of their economic status. The parent’s influence in substance abuse involvement rubs off on the child since they grew up in a household whereby substance abuse was regular and certainly not a big deal. Furthermore, families with one or both caregivers who are drug abusers are more likely to have a lower socioeconomic status.

According to recent studies, nearly 9% of all the children in America stay with at least a family member who is addicted to alcohol and drugs. [18]

Level of Economic Status: Wealth vs Poverty

A great number of the risk factors for alcohol and drug abuse mentioned above, substance abuse is more common in families with a low economic status. About 20% of welfare recipients in the United States admitted to using illegal drugs in the year the previous year before the study was carried out. [19] A person who earns not up to $20,000 a year has a one-third lower chance of recovering from cocaine abuse than a person that earns more than $70,000 per year.[20] Even one’s place of employment determines their economic status and has an effect on the probability of drug abuse. According to a 2007 study, 23% of unemployed people had tried cocaine a minimum of one time, while close to 15% part-time workers and 19% of full-time employees had done so. [21]

Homelessness and substance abuse often occur together. homeless people belong to the lower economic status According to figures from 2003, 38 percent of homeless people were alcohol addicts, and 26 percent were opioid addicts. [22] Substance abuse is often the source of homelessness. Despite this, many people who are homeless resort to alcohol and drugs to cope with their emotions and problems.

Homelessness which occurs due to a lower economic status is often accompanied by mental illness. According to a 2010 survey, 34.7% of the people homeless in the shelters have a persistent drug abuse issue, while 26.2% have a significant mental health condition. [23]

Poverty plays a role in the probability that children will experiment with alcohol and drugs. However, some studies show that children from families with low economic status have more tendencies to start smoking but less tendencies of binge drinking than their affluent peers. [24] Since we are in a period of transformation, there are a variety of socioeconomic trends of smoking and heavy smoking all over the world. Heavy smoking, for example, has a clear inverse association with economic status in high-income countries, whereas this trend is often reversed in low- to middle-income countries.

Seeking For Help

There appears a significant disparity in the consistency and effectiveness of recovery services available for all addicts of various economic status backgrounds. There exist no absolute limit to how much a drug abuse treatment center can charge patients for the services offered at this time.

In 2011, 37.3% of people who did not receive the care they wanted for a drug abuse issue said they did not know because their economic status could not afford it or did not have coverage for health insurance, which was the most frequently reported explanation for not getting help. [25]

A high care level would not in anyway be a viable choice for a worker on the lower economic status, disabled person, or homeless person. Rather, these individuals must make do with less, in some cases even the assistance provided by the government.

Is a more expensive price tag that befits people belonging to the higher economic status always a sign of better service? Certainly not universally, however, there exist still variations. A facility can charge about four times even more than another while having half the chance of success of the less expensive institution. The argument being that the addicts who have some financial resources due to their economic status have more choices overall. People often have no other way out but to take the cheapest alternative due to their economic status, not regarding the evidence supporting treatment plans and success rates. This method can be discouraging for the addicts that need particular forms of care that no other facility in their own estimated price range provides due to their economic status.

If you would like to learn more or get professional help, don’t hesitate to call us on 615-490-9376


[1] Elwell, C.K. (2014 Mar 10). “The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class.” Federation of American Scientists. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Number of People Seeking Addiction Treatment Could Double Under New Health Law.” (2013 Sep 12). Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[4] Kerr, P. (1987 Aug 30). “Rich vs. Poor: Drug Patterns are Diverging.” New York Times. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[5] “Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons with Child Abuse and Neglect Issues.” (2000). Treatment Improvement Protocol. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[6] Ibid.
[7] “The Impact of Substance Abuse on the Child Welfare System.” (n.d.). Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[8] “Addiction Science: From Molecules to Managed Care.” (July 2008). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[9] Clarke, C. (2009 Aug 28). “Why Rich Parents Raise Smarter Children.” The Atlantic. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[10] “Substance Abuse and Mental Health.” (n.d.). Helpguide. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[11] “Mental Health by the Numbers.” (n.d.). National Alliance on Mental Illness. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[12] “Mental Illness and Poverty: A Fact Sheet.” (n.d.). Florida Council for Community Mental Health. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[13] Grohol, J.M. (n.d.). “The Vicious Cycle of Poverty and Mental Health.” Psych Central. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[14] “Money Income of Households—Percent Distribution by Income Level, Race, and Hispanic Origin, in Constant (2009) Dollars: 1990 to 2009.” (n.d.). United States Census Bureau. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[15] Szalavtia, M. (2011 Nov 7). “Study: Whites More Likely to Abuse Drugs than Blacks.” TIME Magazine. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[16] “Percentage of Adults Reporting Poor Mental Health by Race/Ethnicity.” (n.d.). Kaiser Family Foundation. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[17] “Children of Alcoholics: A Guide to Community Action.” (n.d.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[18] Capaldi, L. (2008 May 1). “The Relationship Between Parental Substance Abuse and the Effects on Young Children.” Providence College. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[19] Pollack, H.A., “Substance Abuse Trends among Welfare Recipients.” (n.d.). Substance Abuse Policy Research Program. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[20] Szalavitz, M. (2011 Nov 1). “Yes, Addiction Does Discriminate.” The Fix. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[21] Gardner Selby, W. (2012 Nov 26). “Joe Deshotel says there is no evidence showing poor people use drugs more frequently than members of other socioeconomic groups.” Politicfact Texas. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[22] “Substance Abuse and Homelessness.” (July 2009). National Coalition for the Homeless. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[23] “Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States.” (July 2011). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[24] “Childhood economic status affects substance abuse among young adults.” (n.d.). Duke Medicine. Accessed June 3, 2015.
[25] “Health Insurance Status of Adult Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Aged 26 or Older: 2011.” (2011). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed June 3, 2015.