Poverty, Addiction, and Recovery

Poverty, Addiction, and Recovery


This post is all about poverty and how it affects both addiction and recovery, because today is blog action day (with the goal of all bloggers bringing the issue of poverty to the forefront of people’s minds.

Now my goal here is not to nag at my readers or convince you to donate money to charities (although in some cases that would be great). Instead, I’d just like to shed some light on how poverty and addiction go together and try to increase everyone’s awareness of the relationship between the two.

Does addiction cause poverty?

By the numbers, addiction and poverty have a definite correlation, simply because addictions cost so much money. Anyone who has tried to sustain an expensive addiction for very long can tell you that it is very easy to fall below the poverty line.

Add in these other complications, and it becomes easy to see how addiction–when left untreated–can definitely lead to a life of poverty:

1) The first, and strongest indicator of poverty is the family unit (closely followed by education level). Single parents with multiple children are likely to be poor, especially if they have other setbacks (unemployed, low education, etc.).

Addiction has a tendency to break up families, producing the types of family units that lead to poverty. Drug-induced states also have the potential to lead to poor decision making which leads to these types of living arrangements. In other words, addiction can lead to structural problems with families that has a tendency to produce poverty.

2) The next best indicator of poverty is education level, which brings up another point: addiction tends to negatively affect our education efforts. Addicts might drop out of high school, or avoid going to college, and so on. So there is certainly a correlation here that can lead to poverty.

3) Finally, this study here shows that if you work full time, regardless of how low a wage you earn, there is only about a 3% chance that you will live below the poverty line. Those who are caught up in addiction or alcoholism know that it is no rare occurrence for them to lose their job altogether. Some addicts and alcoholics eventually reach a point in their disease where they become completely unemployable as well, further cementing their poverty status.

Based on these 3 ideas, it seems reasonable to say that addiction can certainly lead to poverty.

Does poverty cause addiction?

This psychological analysis shows how addiction becomes a rational choice for the poor because they have less to lose and more to gain by engaging with addictive substances.

In other words, using addictive substances becomes more attractive for someone who faces unhealthy living conditions in their daily lives and has more motivations to seek an escape from reality.

This is just a psychological theory, of course, and it is difficult or impossible to get the data to back this idea up, because you would have to show causation (that the poverty led to the addiction, and not the other way around).

But I think there is an empowering idea in there: gratitude. Be grateful for your wealth.

If you’re reading this on the internet, then you’ve just qualified yourself as being in the top 5% of the wealthiest humans on earth. Seriously. If you have your basic needs met and get 3 squares a day and even have some sort of health coverage (even if it’s lousy) then you are among the planet’s elite.

Of course we tend to see wealth as being relative, and constantly compare ourselves to the millionaires of the world. But just for today, appreciate what you’ve got. All of it. Even if you worked hard for it.

But I’m not going to try to guilt you into giving all of your spending money to charity. Instead, merely be grateful today, and become mindful of poverty and how it can potentially affect those around you. You don’t have to give money but maybe you could donate clothes or volunteer time. Or simply say a prayer for those who haven’t been so lucky…..


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