Social costs of substance abuse

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Depletion of resources through alcohol consumption
Drug abuse depletes resources
Destruction of society through drug addition

Whilst the health and chances for a productive life are jeopardized for the individual drug user, he or she is not the only one to suffer. Throughout society there are costs because of drug addiction. The family suffers disharmony and pain in witnessing the destruction of a loved one. The user's employer suffers in economic terms through lost production, sloppy workmanship, increased numbers of accidents, high absenteeism and rising health care costs. Taxpayers' money is needed to support efforts of Governments, law enforcement officials, public health services and the treatment community in combating drug crimes and rehabilitating users. Added to this is the financial support the user is giving to the criminal organizations which profit from drugs, and criminal activity often engaged in by the user in an effort to support the "habit". Finally, the illicit drug trade has intimidated and corrupted public servants, and even destabilized governments – for example, the erratic ebb and flow and sheer volume of drug money have affected the money supply and exchange markets.


Statistics show that in areas where drug use is common, economic development can be seriously retarded. This is true in both developing and developed countries.

The World Health Organisation’s Global Burden of Disease report estimates that alcohol-attributable violence accounts for 248,000 deaths annually worldwide, and American research shows that about 40 per cent of inmates convicted of violent offences were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the crime.

According to different evaluations which have been carried out in Europe, the cost of alcoholism represents 2 to 6 percent of Gross National Product, depending on the country.

It was estimated in 2001 that substance abuse costs the US society more than $410 billion per year. Notably, roughly half of all serious crimes are committed by people under the influence.

In Great Britain (1996) there was approximately 33 000 alcohol related deaths a year. Alcohol is involved in 15% of traffic deaths, 26% of drownings and 39% of deaths in fires. About 65% of suicide attempts are linked to heavy drinking. Alcohol is a factor in 40% of domestic violence incidents, and in a third of child abuse cases. Heavy drinking is a common factor in family break-up - marriages where one or both partners have a drink problem are twice as likely to end in divorce as marriages where alcohol problems are absent. Offender or victim have been drinking in 65% of murders and 75% of stabbings. Up to 14 million working days are lost each year due to alcohol-related problems. Alcohol-related problems costs British industry an estimated £2 billion a year due to absenteeism and poor work performance. (This figure does not include the 25% of workplace accidents which are alcohol-related). The National Health Service responses to alcohol-related health problems cost an estimated £150 million a year. Drink-related traffic crime costs £50 million a year.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST