The Impact of Drug and Alcohol Addiction on The Community

Many of those suffering from substance dependence are so overwhelmed by their struggle to survive the battle of addiction that they fail to recognize the impact their addiction has on their surroundings and delay seeking treatment. A devastating social impact on community life often accompanies drug abuse. Aside from the individual who is addicted, families of those who struggle with addiction seem to receive the most blatantly obvious devastation. Even family members impacted by addiction tend to fail to recognize the toll addiction has on everything in a community. The correlation between substance abuse and the success of businesses, education, crime rates, homelessness, financial impacts, housing trends, and homelessness can all be greatly impacted by addiction at both nationwide and local levels.

Individual Impact

The individual addicted to substances is always the first and foremost recipient of harm caused by substance abuse. This is the first domino in a long line of others. Physical effects are usually the easiest for friends and family to recognize. Some physical effects, such as meth users developing sunken cheeks, are telltale signs that even strangers are able to identify as an impact of addiction. Some physical effects, however require medical professionals to recognize, such as the alcoholic’s strain on their liver. Cognitive and behavioral impacts of addiction such as paranoia, inability to function in social or professional settings, and impaired decision-making tend to set in as well. Physical, cognitive, and behavioral impacts of drug and alcohol addiction can lead to damaged relationships with friends and family, poor performance and absences at school and work, and much more. 

Family Impact

Oftentimes, before the trickle of impact reaches the local community, it strikes the family of the individual who is suffering from addiction. This impact can span from private issues outsiders do not see, such as domestic violence, arguing, and mistreatment of children, to more public resulting issues such as divorce and separation. With many issues triggered by addiction, it’s not always clear what comes first because everything is so closely connected. For instance, the issues the individual suffers can simultaneously impact their family as well as their career or education. The individual’s failure to perform in their career can impact their family life, and their failing family life can influence their performance in school or work. Helping a loved one with recovery can be difficult for family members and negatively affect them as well.

Children who are raised by parents who struggle with addiction are more likely to struggle with addiction themselves as they grow. The education of children whose home lives are touched by addiction is likely to suffer devastation as well. The trauma of observing a parent struggle with substance dependence may result in developmental delays and long-term mental and emotional disorders.

Devastation to Education 

Children whose parents struggle with substance dependence tend to have more difficulty in school than those with sober and stable parents. Parents who struggle with addiction are less likely to track their children’s progress in school. Being unable to receive help with homework can cause additional strain on the education of children whose parents are immersed in addiction. When a child is able to discuss their emotions and experiences they encounter in school with their parents, they are better able to cope with and react appropriately in their school life. Children are more likely to experience expulsion and academic failures when they have parents who suffer from addiction. 

Teenagers who struggle with substance abuse themselves, of course, have an impacted educational experience. Difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, and problems with processing information can be effects of addiction that disable teenagers from success in their education. Substance abuse can impact attendance, ability to graduate, and grade point averages. Those who struggle with substance abuse are less likely to graduate high school and are less likely to go on to college education.

The Adverse Effect of Drug Abuse on Industry

Decreased work productivity, increased tardiness and absences, low morale, and inappropriate behaviors at work are all effects of drug and alcohol dependence in employees. Business owners suffer increases in workplace injuries and increased illnesses as well. All negative effects of substance use amongst employees in the workplace wind up costing companies money. American companies lose billions of dollars annually due to employees’ alcohol and drug use and associated problems. Companies lose money when employees struggling with substance abuse causes safety hazards in the workplace. Addiction in the workplace can also trigger increased costs of disciplinary procedures and drug testing, an increase in conflicts amongst employees and company time invested in conflict resolution, theft within companies, high turnover rates, and thus increased costs for training employees. The increased costs for decreased overall productivity caused by addiction is harmful to businesses as a whole. 

In some industries drug and alcohol use is more rampant than others. The accommodations and food services industry seems to be the industry most impacted by drug and alcohol use. A survey by SAMHSA found that in 2008 to 2012 the rate of illicit drug use was about 19.1 percent amongst workers in the accommodations and food services. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 10.8 million full-time workers have a substance use disorder. That is 9.5% of adults ages 18-64 who are employed full time. With 9.5% of full time employees posing an increased risk to safety and all of the other above mentioned threats to industry, this is a major threat to businesses and the livelihood of the company owners. Major corporations can typically afford to suffer the losses caused by addiction in the workforce, but smaller companies are the ones who truly suffer when an employee’s addiction causes them to lose money. 

Economic Impact: Financial Problems Caused by Addiction 

As previously mentioned, teenagers who struggle with addiction as well as children of addicts are less likely to graduate high school and less likely to attend college. According to Claudio Sanchez of NPR, high school dropouts will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate in their lifetime, and almost a million dollars less than those who graduate from college. The unemployment rate for high school dropouts is double what is is for those who graduate high school.

Understandably, if 9.5% of full time employees in the US are suffering from substance use disorder, then those who suffer from addiction must contribute greatly to the cost of unemployment funding as well. Those who suffer from addiction oftentimes find themselves unemployed and tend to spend less and rack up increased debt. Less spending and increased debt has an impact on the economy, both locally and nationwide. They also require more help from government assistance programs. Increased unemployment rates costs the state and federal government money. This is because higher payments from state and federal governments are needed for things like food stamps. 

Contribution to Violence and Other Crimes 

Addiction has a direct contribution to violence and crime within a community. While many addicts may be very loving parents, statistically, a parent who suffers from addiction is three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their child. As a resulting consequence of this domino effect, children who have endured physical and/or sexual abuse are more than 50% more likely to be arrested and 40% more likely to commit violent crimes. Studies have shown that between one third and two-thirds of child maltreatment cases involve substance use.

Unemployment, which is oftentimes caused by addiction, leads to increased crime. In times of higher unemployment, there is a correlation between both less volunteerism and higher crime rates. The majority of arrests occur with arrestees who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their arrest. Crimes like DUI, thefts executed in order to afford the cost of drugs, disputes between drug suppliers, and violent crimes committed while under the influence of drugs and alcohol are all crimes that may not have occurred if not for the impaired judgment that substance abuse inflicts upon its users. 

Addiction, Homelessness, and Housing 

The relationship between homelessness and substance use disorder is indisputable. While addiction is not the only cause of homelessness, a 2014 report from the United States Conference of Mayors indicates that substance abuse was one of the top three causes of homelessness in single people as well as families. The 2020 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress reports that on a single night in 2020 over 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the U.S. According to SAMHSA, 38% of homeless people were dependent upon alcohol and 26% were dependent upon other substances. Based on these statistics, it is apparent that the single best way to alleviate homeless-related issues is to treat the substance use disorders in the homeless communities. 

Although there are no direct statistics to support this, it can be said that addiction also has an impact on housing trends. When a landlord recognizes their tenant to be destroying the property, it’s a common assumption to be made that the tenant may be struggling with a substance use disorder. The impact of a landlord renting a property to a tenant with substance abuse problems can be detrimental, especially in a state like California, where there are squatter’s rights. Furthermore, when a neighbor has neglected their property, it can be difficult to sell a property. This can cause the value of a property to decrease. There are no statistics to directly prove this, but it is a fair statement to make that when there is a prevalence of substance abuse disorder in a neighborhood, property owners can be negatively impacted in many ways. 

Nationwide: How Addiction Harms America 

According to economic research done by Statistica, in June 2022, 1.69 billion U.S. dollars were paid out in unemployment benefits in the United States. According to a CNN Money report from 2013, about 1 in every 6 unemployed workers are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. This means that 17% of unemployed workers had a substance abuse disorder. These numbers are self-reported, so it’s safe to assume that accurate numbers are much, much higher. However, based on that 17% statistic and the $1.69B payout for unemployment benefits, it can be estimated that over $287M of those unemployment benefits may have gone to those who are experiencing unemployment due to their substance dependency. This is a huge financial constraint on the United States that could be alleviating other issues rather than just being a temporary solution for the survival of the long-term threat to society that addiction poses.

It’s not just unemployment funding that financially supports those who are in financial predicaments due to substance use disorder. Other programs such as food and nutrition assistance programs contribute to the survival of those who are in need. According to the USDA, Federal spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $182.5 billion in the fiscal year 2021

The Impact of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in California 

According to the California Department of Education, in 2014 General Fund expenditures for K–12 and child development programs are $45.3 billion, and total funding for K–12 education, including state, local and federal funds, is $76.6 billion. A lot of money is spent on education, and for every child who drops out and thus has decreased income and opportunities, that taxpayer investment is not being spent as it was intended to be. Every child impacted by addiction who loses out on education does not benefit from taxpayer dollars that were allocated to their success in life. Not to mention, their lack of education directly leads to additional taxpayer dollars that will to go towards their survival while unemployed through programs such as CalFresh. According to the Legislative Analysts Office of California, Californians received a total of $9.8 billion in CalFresh benefits in 2020-2021

More damaging than loss of education, employment, and taxpayer dollars is the loss of life caused by substance use disorders. According to the California Department of Public Health in 2020, there were over 5,500 deaths in the state of California related to opioid overdose, over 16,535 emergency room visits related to opioid overdose, and over 14,867,425 prescriptions for opioids. Every one of those 5,500 deaths was the death of someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s spouse, or brother, or sister. These are not just statistics; these are lives. Every loss of life causes a ripple effect that is immeasurable and never-ending. The ripple effect of death due to addiction results in harm that is irreparable, as there is nothing that can bring those individuals back. Anyone who has lost a loved one understands the pain of loss and the destruction that pain can inflict on those who have to go on without their loved ones.

Substance Use Disorder in Riverside County 

The total number of overdose deaths in Riverside County in 2021 was 806 people, 407 of those overdose deaths were caused by fentanyl alone.

Not all overdoses result in death. The total number of overdose-related emergency room visits in Riverside County for 2021 was 4,459 people, 1,697 of which being opioid-related. 

According to NBC an estimated 3,316 people were found to be chronically homeless in Riverside County. It’s not always easy to pinpoint if addiction caused homelessness or if the stress of homelessness caused addiction, but it is clear that when addiction treatment is provided for the homeless, their chances of getting off the streets are drastically improved. 

Impact of Addiction in Lake Elsinore, CA

According to the site map of overdoses provided by Riverside County there were over 60 overdose deaths in the Lake Elsinore area (including Canyon Lake) for 2021. The city of Lake Elsinore is identified as a hot spot for drug overdoses. 

In Lake Elsinore, the homeless population seems to be centered around the area surrounding the lake. The majority of overdose deaths seem to be centered around the lake as well. Unlike most other areas across the United States with beautiful bodies of water, the housing by the lake is not the area with the highest demand for housing. It can be hypothesized that the homeless community and substance abuse in the are may contribute to the lower-income housing being near the lake and higher-end developments being established in other areas of Lake Elsinore, such as Canyon Hills and Canyon Lake

Getting Help Not Only Improves Quality of Life For The Individual and The Family, But The Surrounding Community And Nation

A devastating social impact on community life accompanies drug abuse. Whether assessing National or statewide tax dollars invested in assisting those who are struggling with substance abuse or identifying that local businesses must invest additional funding in order to alleviate problems caused by a strong percentage of the workforce being addicted to drugs, it’s obvious that addiction devastates so much more than the individual who is addicted and their families. The effects of drug and alcohol abuse are present in every city, state, and nation. Without seeking inpatient or drug detox treatment, the harm usually starts a domino effect on the individual and trickles into every aspect of society. The only way to alleviate the terror wreaked by addiction is for every individual to get the help they need from a trusted professional drug rehab treatment center.

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