Drug addiction is a major public health problem that cost the U.S. a staggering $468 billion in 2005, according to The New York Times. Costs result from disease, crime, accidents, child abuse, domestic violence, homelessness and lost wages. Alcohol abuse, smoking and illegal drug use cause one in four deaths and many other serious economic and social consequences. The negative effects of substance abuse affect everyone.
Crimes related to drug abuse include stealing to obtain money needed to buy drugs, buying or selling drugs and offenses related to the lifestyle of drug abusers that result in illegal activities. Half of those arrested for serious crimes, including murder, robbery and assault, were under the influence of illegal drugs. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that approximately 70 percent of state prisoners and 57 percent of federal prisoners used drugs on a regular basis before incarceration. The economic costs of crime include law enforcement, court and incarceration.
Health Care Costs
Several of the most costly health care problems are the result of substance abuse. Included are lung disease from smoking, liver cirrhosis from alcohol, overdoses, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and tuberculosis. Tobacco use results in 430,700 deaths, and alcohol abuse causes100,000 deaths annually. Although an estimated16,000 deaths annually are attributed to illegal drug use, this is probably a conservative number.
Child Abuse and Neglect
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 50 to 80 percent of child abuse and neglect cases involve substance abuse by the children's parents. Endangered children put into foster care from their parents' drug abuse cost approximately $904 million in 2005.
More than 75 percent of domestic violence cases were committed by a person using alcohol or drugs. Drugs, often combined with alcohol, are used by 10 to 22 percent of drivers involved in crashes, according to the NIDA. In 2005, exploding methamphetamine labs cost $61 million for injuries, deaths and toxic waste cleanup. One-third of homeless people suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. Some major costs could not be measured, including the burdens on the families and friends of addicts and on children who are not put into the foster system.