How Addiction Affects Family Finances

Addiction is expensive.  It costs the United States over $600 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  It can cost an addict anywhere from $50 per day for an “inexpensive” addiction, like alcohol, to as much as $1,200 per day for a cocaine habit.

For the family of an addict, it can wreak havoc on your finances.

Here are the costs, and what to do about it.

Expenses Left and Right

Alcohol and drugs themselves cost money, and many addicts are unable to stay gainfully employed.  That can mean that a great deal of the cost falls to friends and family.  Whether being asked for money for substances directly, for other expenses because money was spent on a habit or from outright theft, the day-to-day costs of addiction to a family add up quickly.

That’s not including the emotional toll.

Treatment can also be expensive.  Though approximately 40-60% of addicts will successfully manage addiction after treatment (rates that are comparable to other chronic diseases such as asthma and hypertension) for others treatment will involve several rounds of rehab before an addict really examines and handles the contributing factors in their personal addiction story.

Society bounces back and forth between two options: treatment, which can cost the state a few thousand dollars, or incarceration, which can cost the state tens of thousands of dollars per year per inmate.

That huge difference in cost between a punitive approach and a treatment approach, is a hot topic nationwide at the moment, with different states taking different stances on the matter.

The Expense of Enabling

For families, the right response may feel like paying for things that feel helpful.  Unfortunately, paying for addiction enables the addiction.

Enabling, from a treatment perspective, means to unintentionally contribute to or perpetuate a problem.  Common enabling financial behaviors include:

  • Paying for small amounts of an addicted substance in the hopes of keeping the addiction at a “manageable level.”
  • Paying bail or for tickets or for other expenses related to the legal ramifications of addiction.
  • Paying bills or for other expenses that the individual would have been able to cover, had that person not spent their money on their addiction.
  • Paying for gifts, vacations, or other expenses in an attempt to make the addict happy through material goods.
  • Paying for treatment without any instance that treatment is completed and the recovery plan kept.

That doesn’t mean that one should never financially help out a family member with addiction.  It just needs to be done in such a way as to not enable the addicted patterns of behavior.

The Family Finances Recovery Plan

Financial recovery from addiction is possible, with this 5-step plan:

  1. Have open, but not heated, discussions about the family financial picture and goals. Finances are a cooperative team effort and so is an effective treatment.
  2. Stop paying for things that are enabling.
  3. Insist on treatment, but assist with researching a plan, sign-up, or covering logistics like child care, if it will help treatment be possible.
  4. Set family goals, including investing in a long-term future, such as education, starting a business, or other activities with a positive future.
  5. Persist. Just as treatment might include more than one trip to rehab, financial management takes practice and persistence.

Working productively as a family, acknowledging your interdependency while insisting on individual financial responsibility, can help untwist the knot of financial stress and emotional toll from battling the addiction of a family member.

Have insight or wisdom to share with us about the family impact of addiction?  Comment below or share this blog with others.

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