How Social Status Affects Substance Use Disorders

There are a lot of stereotypes about addiction. The stereotypes often revolve around certain socioeconomic groups. However, when you break down the statistics of addiction, you will get a clearer picture of how certain groups of people use substances. Socioeconomic status is typically judged by an individual’s occupation, income, and education level.

A deep dive into socioeconomic groups and the impact substance abuse has on these groups give impelling insights and can allow you to understand how treatment resources are being allocated. It can even highlight some inequities that are apparent in the system. It is commonly understood that a person’s financial and social standing has an impact on their overall and perceived quality of life. These same factors have a strong impact on a person’s risk of abusing drugs and alcohol and the type of treatment or care they receive.

Addressing Stereotypes about Poverty and Addiction

A powerful cultural stereotype is that drug and alcohol abuse is the domain of the poor. People believe that the poor rely on alcohol and drugs as a way to deal with the stress of poverty. It is a vicious cycle because the education system, the government, and the entertainment industry institutionalize this concept of social class distinctions. Social class distinctions reinforce the inequity in the way drug abuse is perceived and treated. The reality is that people from all socioeconomic backgrounds use and are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

There is a damaging misconception that substance use disorder is a moral failing or an indication of a weak will. This perception has been used to demonize poor people who are dealing with substance use disorder. The perception has been created that there is an underclass of poor, unemployed individuals who are stuck in the mire of substance use and lack the will or the moral character to rise above their miserable circumstances. It is true that the illegal use of prescription opioids is higher among the poor and continues to have a powerful effect in poor communities. Research indicates that Americans who use Medicaid have a higher likelihood of: • Being prescribed opioids •

Taking opioids for a longer amount of time • Receiving higher doses of opioids These things increase the risk of addiction. Sadly, socioeconomic challenges make it less likely that this same group of people have access to addiction treatment. However, research has clearly shown that addiction is a disease. It impacts a person’s brain, changing the way they think and act. It has nothing to do with a moral failing.

The Link between Income and Alcohol Abuse

Income level does impact alcohol and drug use in several ways. Individuals who are socioeconomically disadvantaged have a higher chance of dying from alcohol-related death. In fact, the chance of dying from an alcohol-related death is 66 percent higher for men and 78 percent higher for women. However, contrary to the popular misconception, statistics show that alcohol use and abuse increases in higher income groups. It is more common for upper-class and highly educated Americans to abuse alcohol.

According to one survey, approximately 80 percent of upper income Americans reported drinking alcohol. This is contrasted with only 50 percent of lower income Americans. Around 78 percent of individuals who had income of over $75,000 or more reported that they drink. On the other hand, only 45 percent of individuals with an income of under $30,000 reported that they drink.

Eighty percent of college graduates reported drinking alcohol, whereas only 52 percent of those who had a high school diploma or less reported drinking alcohol. When combined, 64 percent of American adults said that they use alcohol. When you look at teenagers, research shows that excessive alcohol use is more common among individuals with families who have a higher level of education and income. However, teenagers in a lower socioeconomic group were more likely to binge drink, which is to consume five or more drinks in one setting. However, those in the higher income group engaged in social drinking.

Substance Abuse and Homelessness

When talking about socioeconomic disadvantages, homeless people are the most vulnerable. Because of their financial instability, it does make it a challenge to accurately track how they use drugs and alcohol. However, it is estimated that 34 percent of homeless adults who live in shelters have some form of alcohol or drug use disorder. But this does not take into consideration the countless thousands of homeless people who live on the streets. If you or someone you love is battling substance use, regardless of your socioeconomic standing, help is available. If you are ready to get started, we are ready to help. Call us today to learn more at 833-497-3808.