The Cost of Living with an Addict: A Financial Toll

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the cost of living with an addictThe cost of living with an addict is immense.

So you are living with an addict. You probably already know and have felt the emotional strain of living with an addict. But do you know how much it is actually and tangibly costing you? The amount of money that is lost or spent living with an addict is astounding and in some cases crippling for family members or friends. 

It starts off with needing extra money. They need money for gas. They need money for rent. They need money for everything it seems like. And even when you give them money they still need more money the next day for some reason. The reason is they are using drugs and that is where the money is going so quickly. Eventually you will figure this out and stop giving them the money. Usually when you stop giving them money, they will just begin taking it. Credit cards, wallets, cash, savings, checks, your things, your jewelry etc. will start to disappear. Now you know it’s getting bad. Your bank accounts are being emptied. 

So you decide it is time to do something. The addict you are living with definitely needs help.  So you decide it is time for them to go to detox. Detox usually runs around 5,000 dollars without insurance and drug treatment can cost as much 25,000 dollars a month, up to even 50,000 dollars a month depending on the program and insurance. 

An alcoholic who drinks two cheap six-packs of beer each day spends about $9 to support his/her addiction. This same rate of consumption produces costs of roughly $36 per month and $432 per year. While it’s more difficult to accurately estimate the cost of addiction to illegal drugs, conservative estimates indicate that a marijuana user can spend close to $1,000 a year, while a methamphetamine addict can spend $4,000 or more each year. People addicted to cocaine or heroin can easily spend $10,000 or more per year to support their habits. A person with a gambling addiction can easily financially ruin him/herself and any unfortunate family members. 

Over time, long-term addicts inevitably develop health problems that can cost them significant amounts of money in the form of either direct expenditures or increased health insurance premiums. These same health problems also typically cause a significant loss of work-related income. On average, addicts and alcoholics are subject to 1.4 DUI stops over the course of their lifetimes and thus see increases in their car insurance premiums that can rise as high as 300 percent. Some people bear even heavier burdens when insurance companies cancel their policies. Not only that but there are legal issues that must be paid for, court costs etc.

So what do you do?

Having an addict in the family presents a deeply troubling dilemma for spouses and parents. How do you help those you love, while protecting your own financial future? 

After all, a serious substance abuser is likely to do whatever it takes to feed an addiction. That might include tapping a partner’s savings account, home equity, 401(k) or individual retirement accounts, or even the college savings – and piggy banks – of their kids. Even if the addict isn’t sneaking money, relatives might spend every penny they have willingly to help fund a successful recovery. It’s an alarmingly common problem. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 22.2 million Americans had abused or been dependent on drugs or alcohol within the previous year. 

Here are some pointers to save you some financial costs:

Check all of your accounts regularly. Being alert and aware is key. The way to know if the addict in your life is at working is if savings accounts are being depleted faster than usual, regular payments going to organizations you’re unfamiliar with and home equity lines of credit being tapped into. 

Look out for cash advances, evidence of payday lending, credit card or bank statements being rerouted to different addresses and changes in credit reports. If you suspect something is up, couples should establish separate financial accounts in each spouse’s name.In some situations, it might be worth setting up a trust. You could arrange for large assets like a home or planned inheritance to be housed in the trust and have it administrated by a spouse or a third party such as an attorney. That would help prevent a user from tapping those sources to fuel addictions. 

A trust could also help if a parent is planning an estate with concerns for a drug-addicted child. “A trust could buy a home for the person to live in, or always provide money for food, while making sure those funds aren’t being converted to pay for drugs,” he says. 

The key question: Do you use up your own financial resources to keep a roof over your child’s or partner’s head? Or do you practice tough love and cut them off, which would restrict their cash but could precipitate a crisis? 


Each situation should be handled case-by-case, with the help of addiction specialists. We have addiction specialists standing by by phone, chat, and forms through our site. If you know someone dealing with addiction or just want some advice on how to handle the money issues gives us a call. We can help.