Drug addiction and poverty
About 35 million people suffer from drug addiction worldwide. For countless families, this illness goes hand in hand with a cycle of poverty. Many factors fuel drug addiction including unemployment, mental illness and financial status.

Poverty’s Role in Drug Usage and Abuse

Impoverished communities face significantly higher rates of addiction. Financial instability fosters stress, increasing the likelihood of addictive behaviors. Heroin addiction illustrates this link. People making less than $20,000 per year are three times more likely to have an addiction to heroin compared to those making $50,000. Beyond that, people with greater financial means face an easier recovery journey. They are less likely to suffer from severe, long-term addiction than those in poverty. Lack of education, emotional instability and discrimination all heighten the risk of addiction. However, two factors are keys to understanding the link between addiction and poverty.


Unemployment is a key driver of drug addiction. Impoverished working-age men are 18% more likely to face joblessness as poverty and unemployment form a harmful cycle. The cycle begins with unemployment heightening one’s risk of poverty. Then, once in poverty, job hunting becomes harder due to economic bias, challenges in earning a college degree, racial bias and a lack of job infrastructure in low-income areas. This cycle of unemployment-induced stress and anxiety increases the chance of falling into drug addiction.

Mental Illness

Mental illness increases the risk of drug addiction, and poverty elevates the risk of mental illness. Using data from Great Britain, the Mental Health Foundation concluded that people living in the lowest 20% of incomes are two to three times more likely to develop mental health problems than those in the highest 20%. One can explain this through higher stigma and societal trauma, unemployment and fragmented relationships in low-income environments. In addition, poverty undermines access to mental health care and support. This connection is dangerous as population surveys in the U.S. found that half of those who experience mental illnesses will develop drug addictions.

Addiction Increases the Risk of Poverty

Once someone has a substance use disorder, it can be extremely difficult to achieve financial success or maintain a stable economic status. Three main factors can explain this relationship between addiction and poverty.

  1. Addicts use some portion of their earnings on drugs. While the cost of substances differs, when added over time, even the smallest expense can affect a person’s financial well-being, especially as tolerance levels increase.
  2. Drug addiction can cause the addict to miss work, perform poorly and fail drug tests. These all threaten job security and employment status.
  3. Substance use increases the risk of costly medical emergencies and long-term conditions. Depending on the extremity of the problem, some medical visits can leave a person in financial debt, threatening economic stability.

Fighting Addiction Means Fighting Poverty and Vice Versa

Because addiction and poverty inextricably connect, viable solutions must take this into account. Countries throughout the world are fighting back against these issues in unique ways. One solution that countries like the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland pioneered is the decriminalization or legalization of drugs. This method recognizes drug addiction as an illness, opening the doors for better regulation of drug safety and support services such as psychiatry, housing and employment. The overall strategy of legalization shows promise. Since legalizing drugs, Portugal saw an 80% reduction in overdose deaths. Additionally, overall drug use declined. Switzerland’s decriminalization policy corresponded with an 80% reduction in first-time heroin use.

With an awareness of the interconnected relationship between addiction and poverty, policymakers can move toward real solutions to break this destructive cycle.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Addiction and Poverty
It is common knowledge that poverty and substance abuse tend to exist in tandem. The direction of causation is unclear, but the link between addiction and poverty is certainly to be considered.

A study by the National Bureau for Economic Research studied the relationship between poverty and drug abuse, specifically marijuana and cocaine. The study found that there was a positive relationship between poverty and substance abuse, even when controlling for various familial factors—implying that substance abuse may even be a casual factor of poverty. A limitation of the study was that it could not account for the drug usage of the homeless and others, which further strengthened the case that drug usage may be a causal factor of poverty.

And yet, it still isn’t that simple. The study had other limitations. The drug usage was self-reported, the population studied was highly biased (mostly poor already), and assumptions on preferences and educational effects (among others) could not be proved. Nonetheless, it seems that there is a definitive relationship between drugs and poverty, and perhaps even some causal effect.


Poverty and Addition: Directly or Inversely Related?


But could the causal effect also run the other way? Quite possibly. A study from Duke University found that economically stressed children later in life experienced higher rates of tobacco usage (but not binge drinking or marijuana). The researchers attributed this effect to poverty’s impact on self-control. Although the study did not find increases in marijuana usage or other drugs, the causal chain between poverty and eventual drug usage was established.

Although evidence seems to suggest that, to some degree, drug usage can “cause” poverty, extending this logic to an extreme would be absurd. Substance abuse is not the sole driving force behind the worldwide phenomena of poverty; people born into poverty cannot have been driven to poverty by drug usage. There must be more to explain the relationship that clearly exists.

Another research paper suggests that literacy, education, poverty, income equality and unemployment are factors that lead to drug abuse, further complicating the relationship.

Conflicting papers do lead to an obvious but important point. Poverty and addiction are interlinked. Conjoined at the hip, both issues feed off each other and their effects strengthen their respective feedback loops. Poverty leads to mental states which can lead to drug abuse which leads to addiction, which begets crime, which leads to worse employment prospects. A flow diagram to show the effects and directions that these two conditions could lead to would be a huge circular mess, with arrows flying in all directions.

The question then becomes, how does a government fight poverty or substance abuse? Based on existing evidence, perhaps the best answer is that one problem cannot be adequately addressed without also attending to the other.

Martin Yim

Sources: NBER, Duke Medicine, International Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences
Photo: The Province

Theme sponsored by: Modafinil Online where you can learn about how it works and also learn about how you can buy modafinil online

In 2010 the drug nyaope, also known as whoonga, first became widely popular and available across impoverished areas of South Africa. Ever since, these communities have seen dramatic increases in drug abuse and crime rates. Nyaope’s highly addictive nature has devastated these communities and has effectively prolonged their escapes from poverty.

The drug is cheap — it costs only 30 rand, or about $3, for a hit. The drug contains a dangerous cocktail of chemicals, purportedly including marijuana, heroin, rat poison and antiretrovirals, drugs used to treat HIV.

Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, ominously calls users of the drug “slaves,” and blames the drug for increased crime and domestic violence in the area. Of the numerous case studies illustrating the pernicious effects of nyaope, one poignant study tracks a 17-year old South African named Sipho.

One year after beginning to smoke nyaope, a habit influenced by his friends, Sipho had dropped out of school and begun to act violently in hopes of perpetuating his access to the drug. To finance the addiction he would steal from his already poor neighbors. Sipho is now being treated at Horizon Clinic, one of the many rehabilitation centers working to stifle drug abuse and its effects.

Instead of stealing the funds to finance their drug use, many addicts cut out the middlemen and steal the ingredients. But because nyaope is an assortment of ingredients, many of which are controversial, the actual contents are often disputed. For example, many believe that antiretrovirals are not used at all, or if they are, they have no more than a placebo effect.

According to HarmonyGroup, an online addictions clinic, “Smoking or injecting crushed antiretrovirals won’t make you high. The reputation of the drug could therefore be nothing more than a myth based on distortion by the media and the incorrect data supplied by users who don’t know any better.”

Thus, the risks these addicts are taking to find these supposed ingredients, may in fact be complete wastes of time with potentially colossal consequences.

The crime caused by this drug is prolonging and deepening poverty in South Africa — it raises generations of thieves and addicts while leaving reconstruction to others, often outsiders. If the grasp of poverty is to be weakened, South Africans must first divert their own attention to the widespread, recreational and pernicious drug abuse.

– Adam Kaminski 

Sources: Global Post, Harmony Group
Photo: The Public News Hub

Nonprofit organization Urban Ministries of Durham partners with advertising agency McKinney in order to create “Names for Change,” a venture that allows the renaming rights to household products.

The concept is simple: the items available at the shelter are open to be rebranded with the proceeds going towards providing homes for the homeless. The prices range depending on the product, and can vary from a jar of peanut butter to a refrigerator.

The renaming can be for oneself or can be offered as a gift for someone else. Afterwards, there is a choice to create an official poster of the given product.

From there, a serial number and certificate of authenticity is branded on the product, further immortalizing the newly named item and the step towards helping a recipient out of homelessness.

To date, the campaign has raised $41,065, enough to raise eight individuals out of homelessness.

Jenny Nicholson, the brainchild behind the naming campaign, is associative creative director at McKinney, a company part of the larger mother communications corporation Cheil Worldwide.

Hailing from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s social work master’s program, Nicholson teamed up with Urban Ministries, a homeless shelter, to start up an online game that engages the issues of homelessness.

The online game “Spent” allows players to offer a donation post-game and proposes over 169 new items to having its respective naming rights changed.

Executive director Patrice Nelson mentions the collaboration with Urban Ministries wherein the non-profit serves over 600 meals per day in its community café as well as offering community shelter, a clothing closet and food pantry.

With winter snowstorm Hercules settling in the northeast and key communities declaring Code Blue, the Durham community itself is rallying its homeless to available shelters. Durham Rescue Mission notes that alcoholism and drug addiction keep these individuals away from the shelters

The hope behind “Names for Change” is to create a permanent household that will eventually render shelters as a solution to the problem.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: Herald Sun, McKinney, Names for Change,, WNCN