Wed. Jun 3rd, 2020


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Addiction Among Socioeconomic Groups

5 min read

Despite the fact that the US has been deeply rooted on social equality and has taken much pride in the lack of an organized class system, reality dictates that an individual’s social standing and financial capacity can define his material affluence, health, and general quality of living.

On the other hand, studies and statistics would show that one’s socioeconomic status has a strong influence on one’s inclination to abuse alcohol and drugs. In the same vein, one’s financial capacity can be a deciding factor as to whether or not he gets treatment for his addiction. Also, the very same financial capacity is the determining factor on the kind of care he will receive while on alcohol and drug rehab.

Addiction and Financial Status: Cultural Stereotypes

In the United States, there are plenty of ubiquitous stereotypes regarding substance abuse and socioeconomic status. One of the most popular stereotypes is the belief that alcoholism and drug addiction is more common among the poor, the uneducated, and the less privileged. It is wrongfully believed that they use alcohol and drugs to deal with, escape from, the stress caused by poverty. Aside from this cultural stereotype, it is also believed that alcohol and drug abuse are both moral degradations that would make addicts as an underclass of poor, out of job people who don’t have any hope of overcoming their “miserable conditions.”

The wealthy members of the society were also not spared from these dangerous and stereotypes. According to this stereotype, the “idle rich” are people who are wealthy but are lacking in morality, hence, making them more susceptible and inclined to abuse alcohol and drugs. Because these rich kids or individuals don’t have to work to earn a living, they have more time to indulge in substance abuse or other compulsive behavior, sans the fear of having to give up their social standing or lose their jobs.

The truth behind stereotypes is addiction cuts across the social and financial boundaries since it can really affect any kind of individual belonging in different social strata. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is neither a character defect or moral degradation. Rather, it is an advanced yet highly treatable mental condition that is characterized by recurring relapse episodes and habitual substance abuse pattern.

It is because of these stereotypes and misconceptions about substance abuse and socioeconomic standing that real solutions to address the equal opportunity issue of addiction and alcohol and drug rehab are not reached.

How Income Level links to Substance Abuse

An individual’s income level can affect his patterns of alcohol and drug in a number of ways. For some people, it is completely rational to assume that middle-class, low-income, or poor people are more inclined to abuse drugs and alcohol due to lack of suitable and substantial information on substance abuse, inadequate resources to pay for alcohol and drug rehab, and financial distress. However, despite the seemingly rational causality of these conditions, statistics show that alcohol and drug abuse are higher among individuals belonging in the upper-income groups.

However, statistics indicate that drug and alcohol use actually increase in higher income groups. In a 2015 poll conducted by Gallop News, it was revealed that highly-educated and upper-class Americans are more frequent users of alcohol.

In detail, these are the results of the said survey:

  1. Approximately 80% of those in the upper-income bracket mentioned that they drink alcohol. 50% of those belonging to the lower-income bracket reported alcohol use.

  2. About 78% of those with more than $75,000 income said they always drink. Only 45% of those in the $30,000 and below income bracket reported to alcohol use.

  3. Approximately 80% of the college graduates revealed that they have been drinking, as opposed to 52% among those with high-school or lower education levels.

  4. Taken altogether, approximately 64% of the entire American adult population coming from all income brackets have admitted to alcohol use.


With the statistics reported above, the bigger and more urgent question is why do a person’s education and income level increase their likelihood to use alcohol. The easy and logical answer to this question could be because they have the means to buy more alcohol and that they are also more inclined to attend parties, events, and other social activities which serve alcohol like sporting events, fundraisers, and parties. Then again, the exact and more scientific reason for this incongruence is still indeterminate.

The study circulated by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine supports the findings of the poll conducted by Gallup News. In the said study, it was revealed that people who are in high-income localities have a higher percentage of marijuana and alcohol use compared to those living in poor or low-income zones. This study shows that more affluent individuals have more access to marijuana and alcohol due to their social circles, events, and financial means.

Both of these studies contradict the stereotype that those living in impoverished neighborhoods and conditions are more inclined to abuse alcohol and drugs because of the stress brought by financial difficulties. Because of this, it can be gainfully said that maybe, the stressors of more affluent families, such as parenting issues, relationship problems, financial concerns — can be as harmful and as influential as the issues that cause depression and anxiety among the impoverished families.

It could also be that these highly-educated and affluent individuals have highly-stressful jobs and occupations that make them succumb to alcohol and drugs to cope up with the stress. College students are prone to substance abuse may be because of the level of stress that they have to deal to cope up with the demands of the academe they belong to.

One’s Income and Alcohol Usage

Though in general, alcohol use may be prevalent among individuals with higher educational levels and higher incomes, heavy drinking might be the one which is more predominant among the impoverished individuals.

In a study published by Social Science & Medicine, it was revealed that people with a background of being in a lower-income social group shows a higher likelihood of binge drinking or drinking heavily (finishing 5 drinks and up in a single sitting). Adversely, people belonging to the higher-income group are more inclined to social drinking or light drinking. Additionally, those in the working class are also more likely to drink alcohol heavily but compared to respondents occupying white collar jobs, the former show more inclination to be totally abstinent.

Among the adolescent population, it was found out, however, that heavy drinking of alcohol is more rampant among those belonging to higher-income and higher-education families. In a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, it was revealed that teenagers who have parents with high education levels and who belong in higher income households are more prone to marijuana use and heavy drinking periods compared to their lower-income counterparts. This very study runs counter the cultural stereotype that privileged and affluent kids are sheltered from the disparaging effects of drugs and alcohol abuse, while those adolescents in low-income households are more inclined to substance abuse and high-risk behavior that could land them to alcohol and drug rehab.

If you have a parent, a child, a loved one, or a friend who is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, know that you can help them redeem their lives along with their sobriety. Speak to an Addiction Specialist now and know your options for alcohol and drug rehab treatments.

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