Drug abuse leads to numerous problems, not only in the home, but also in a person’s community. According to the CDC, over 700,000 people died from drug overdoses from 1999 to 2017. Because of proliferation of dangerous fentanyl and the isolation that occurred during situation seems to be getting worse, not better.

So, what are the social effects we are experiencing from the out-of-control drug abuse in our communities?

Increasing Healthcare Costs to Society

Overall costs for healthcare and drug and substance abuse cost U.S. taxpayers tremendous sums. For example, calculations for alcohol abuse, as reported in 2010, reached a projected $250 billion annually.  Prescription opioids alone cost almost $80 billion in 2013. Add $193 billion in overall costs for illicit drug use in 2007.

People with substance use disorders (SUDs) are much less likely to follow medical advice and pursue the help of  the many treatment programs that are available. Having so much help available that goes unused causes the healthcare costs to run higher. As a result, those with a substance use disorder (SUD) are more likely to require later-stage treatments, including emergency room visits, which also cause healthcare costs to increase.

Substance Use Damages Interpersonal Relations

Recurrent use of substances may have differing effects, which leads to a variety of negative patterns. Because of drug abuse, families break down in society. This leads to more societal issues, including:

  • Mental illness
  • Divorce
  • Domestic problems
  • Emotional abuse
  • Eviction
  • Issues with trust and theft

For instance, research shows that a substance abuser, if unable to cope financially, may steal from a relative or friend. Trust breaks down as well when a substance abuser avoids questions or distances themself from others.  Isolation of SUD sufferer is another  problem that results from use, and also discourages their loved ones from helping them get the care they need.

Vagrancy and Homelessness

Direct correlations exist between homelessness and the use of illegal drugs, both which negatively affect the community as a whole. According to White House data in 2019, around 17 people per 10,000 are affected in the U.S.. When homelessness or vagrancy increases. Social pillars are also degraded and break down.

An Increase in Crime

People seek safety when they search for a place to live. The abuse of drugs has led to overall increases in crime, especially theft. People who take harder substances, such as opioids and heroin, are shown to be more likely to take part in criminal activities.


When you review information on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website or the National Institute on Drug Abuse infographics webpage, you will find that drug abuse affects both women and men, teens, and college students. Overall, in the U.S., it has become a pervasive problem – one that affects costs, social alliances, and work. Not only does it include illicit drugs, alcohol, and prescriptions, it includes the use of tobacco as well.

Unless people see the seriousness behind the situation, it will not get better but cause a further breakdown in society. Therefore, drug abuse not only affects families, it impacts workers, the public, and society as a whole. Only education and shifts in public policy will improve this looming problem worldwide.

ABOUT The AUTHOR: Mike Williams has written about the field of recovery for over 15 years. He is a frequent contributor to By the Sea Recovery, a sober living in San Diego.


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